Friday, March 30, 2012

Pink Slime...

   I had heard of the controversial meat additive that is referred of as 'pink slime' long before the media frenzy these past few weeks & the long over due public outcry calling for the manufacturers to stop adding it to our meats. As I was watching the news last night, there was a short story about the pink slime additive that caught my attention. So when I heard on the news that Texas governor, Rick Perry visited & toured a Nebraska meat plant that is responsible for making the pink slime, I was rather shocked. Perry along with 2 other governors toured the facilities to support the company & their pink slime product. Governors of Texas, Kansas, & Iowa, three of the top 10 beef producing states in the nation- #1 spot going to Texas, stated that beef containing the additive was "leaner" & therefore healthier. The governors ended their press conference by eating hamburgers made from Beef Products, Inc. or BPI's  beef.
A Beef Products Inc. processing plant in South Sioux City, Neb.
The company injects fatty beef trimmings with ammonia to remove E. coli and salmonella.
   This controversial product has been called "safe" by the company who makes it, Beef Products, Inc. & the USDA has agreed with them. For decades, 'lean beef trimmings' or its informal name pink slime, has been used as a processing agent to kill bacteria in meats. The ammonia solution first came about in order to use other parts of the cow that otherwise could not be eaten by people.These fatty trimmings & connective tissues harbor significant bacterial growth & so where used in things like pet food rather than meat for human consumption. By soaking these trimmings & riding them of deadly bacteria like E coli, meat factories were then able to produce more meat, more cheaply which ultimately leads to more money!

  The real sickening point, pun intended, is that USDA considers pink slime to be a processing agent not part of the meat. Therefore, producers using pink 'lean beef trimmings' in their product are EXEMPT from being listed on the label. And on top of that, the meat bits that before were unusable for humans to consume, now are also exempt from the ingredients listing, because they too were not a significant part in the product. The main ingredient was beef- beef soaked in ammonia & combined with scraps of the cow that should not be used as human food. And the United States Department of Agriculture put their stamp of approval on this?! The USDA deemed the ammonia process so effective, they actually exempted Beef Products, Incfrom their routine testing. But again, its about the bottom line: by using the ammonia technique, more meat is produce by using cheap filler, & this ultimately leads to more money.
   In 2009, The New York Times wrote an article, "Safety of Beef Processing Method is Questioned" citing that E. coli & salmonella outbreaks have actually increased in recent years due to contaminated beef & which lead to "large recalls across several states".The article is definitely worth reading:
"Eight years ago, federal officials were struggling to remove potentially deadly E. coli from hamburgers when an entrepreneurial company from South Dakota came up with a novel idea: injecting beef with ammonia.
 The company, Beef Products Inc., had been looking to expand into the hamburger business with a product made from beef that included fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil. The trimmings were particularly susceptible to contamination, but a study commissioned by the company showed that the ammonia process would kill E. coli as well as salmonella.
 Officials at the United States Department of Agriculture endorsed the company’s ammonia treatment, and have said it destroys E. coli “to an undetectable level.” They decided it was so effective that in 2007, when the department began routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public, they exempted Beef Products.
 With the U.S.D.A.’s stamp of approval, the company’s processed beef has become a mainstay in America’s hamburgers. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone."
   Just this March, ABC News reported that 70% of ground beef in supermarkets contained pink slime. So did you know you were buying beef that contained this cheap filling sprayed with ammonia? It kind of makes your stomach turn when you think back on a weekend barbecue with family & that loved ones, even children, are eating this unknowingly. The public might never have known about this process if it weren't for Gerald Zirnstein & Carl Custer, both former USDA scientists turned whistle-blowers. In the March 2012 ABC News article, Zirnstein conveys his strong feelings about the additive:
"It was Zirnstein who, in an USDA memo, first coined the term “pink slime” and is now coming forward to say he won’t buy it.“It’s economic fraud,” he told ABC News. “It’s not fresh ground beef. … It’s a cheap substitute being added in.”Zirnstein and his fellow USDA scientist, Carl Custer, both warned against using what the industry calls “lean finely textured beef,” widely known now as “pink slime,” but their government bosses overruled them.According to Custer, the product is not really beef, but “a salvage product … fat that had been heated at a low temperature and the excess fat spun out.”The “pink slime” is made by gathering waste trimmings, simmering them at low heat so the fat separates easily from the muscle, and spinning the trimmings using a centrifuge to complete the separation. Next, the mixture is sent through pipes where it is sprayed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria. The process is completed by packaging the meat into bricks. Then, it is frozen and shipped to grocery stores and meat packers, where it is added to most ground beef.The “pink slime” does not have to appear on the label because, over objections of its own scientists, USDA officials with links to the beef industry labeled it meat."
   It astounds me that these men came forward several years ago & its like most of the public never heard about it. Did you hear about the FDA approving in 2009 that it was safe to use ammonia in food processing?! Isn't ammonia toxic has a gas & a liquid? Check out the symptoms of ammonia poisoning & where it is commonly found in most households. Obviously the ammonia used in beef products is a lower dose, but consider how many times an American ingests beef over the course of a week, month or even years. I wrote about monosodium glutamate or MSG in a previous article, stating that anything in multiple doses affects your body whether its MSG or pink slime or even vitamin C. It is most unexceptable that these men's message was buried & not widely known for so many years. It's not just the USDA but the FDA involved as well. Isn't their primary mandate to protect & keep Americans healthy? Here's another excerpt from the New York Times article in 2009:
"The Food and Drug Administration signed off on the use of ammonia, concluding it was safe when used as a processing agent in foods. This year, a top official with the U.S.D.A.’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said, “It eliminates E. coli to the same degree as if you cooked the product.”Carl S. Custer, a former U.S.D.A. microbiologist, said he and other scientists were concerned that the department had approved the treated beef for sale without obtaining independent validation of the potential safety risk. Another department microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein, called the processed beef "pink slime" in a 2002 e-mail message to colleagues and said, 'I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling.' "
   As I continued to listen to the news last night, I heard again & again that the USDA deems the pink slime as a safe product. Experts say only trace amounts of pink slime are found in meat & is also safe in other products where the additive is found such as baked goods & pudding. The National Meat Association or NMA stated that if consumers insist on eliminating pink slime from the beef, the prices will go up & lean beef trimmings will have to be imported to replace it. I'm not in agreement with that scenario- why can't these beef bits just be eliminated all together? Did you know the process of creating the additive pink slime yields 12-15 pounds more additional meat per animal? Can we again say bottom line?! "School Cafeterias Continue to Use Pink Slime"
   Or if the producers insist on putting the additive in their meat, why not label is like other products? Even herbs & vitamins contain disclaimers on their labels stating that it has not been evaluated by the FDA & therefore according to the FDA has no proven effectiveness. Don't we still take herbs & vitamins? Is it that outlandish that a meat product state on its label "100% beef, no fillers"? Is it that difficult to add in bold lettering to the ingredients "lean beef trimmings"? I do find it interesting that they found a healthier sounding name than stating what is actually being used "ammonium hydroxide".
   Would you rather eat cheaper beef with ammonia soaked beef trimmings or pay more for a product that has not been altered from its original source? I would rather spend more money on good, healthy food than pay doctors, insurance & a myriad of tests later because of an illness, disease, or cancer.
   I think its important to always trust your gut, that intuitive inner voice of reason. Unfortunately, we live a hectic paced life & it is not always quiet enough to hear its whisper. I cannot urge you enough to check labels & research what you are eating & feeding to your family. No one else will do it for you, you are your best advocate! The public has been eating this slime since the 90's & we are just now calling for its elimination. Unfortunately, money sometimes dictates what people choose to do & makes it even more imperative that you stick with brands that are HONEST, FORTH-COMING, & TRANSPARENT about their company, processing methods, etc. Here's the bottom line again: its about the money:
“The under secretary said, ‘it’s pink, therefore it’s meat,’” Custer told ABC News.
ABC News has learned the woman who made the decision to OK the mix is a former undersecretary of agriculture, Joann Smith. It was a call that led to hundred of millions of dollars for Beef Products Inc., the makers of pink slime.
When Smith stepped down from the USDA in 1993, BPI’s principal major supplier appointed her to its board of directors, where she made at least $1.2 million over 17 years."
   Now that the USDA has purchased 7 million pounds of meat processed with ammonium hydroxide for school lunches, it might be time for the public to put its foot down. Dr. Jospeh Mercola's website has more on information on the topics I have been discussing. Also, PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION TO TELL THE USDA TO STOP USING PINK SLIME IN SCHOOL LUNCHES. Right now the USDA has stated that starting next fall, it will allow schools the choice of serving ammonia-treated lean beef trimmings or untreated beef. Apply the pressure! The more people know about this important issue, the more the USDA will react on the issue. If we do nothing, nothing will change!

Tips to avoid pink slime in your meat:
  • Choose to buy locally: grass-feed, beef ranchers & small farmers have some of the healthiest & tastiest food. You'll know what you're buying: fresher, pesticide & hormone free foods. Make sure to ask what raising & growing practices they use with their animals, fruits, & vegetables.
  • Another good place to check is your local farmers market- you'll be able to ask the seller directly & have all your questions answered. 
  • Check out websites like  or co-op like bountiful to find online directories of local purveyors near you. Or start your own garden or co-op!
  • Also, look for online petitions to sign & spread the information to your friends & family.