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What's on the School Cafeteria Menu? "Pink Slime"

USDA has plans to purchase millions of pounds of product now even shunned by McDonald's

Common Dreams staff

The USDA plans to buy 7 million pounds of Lean Beef Trimmings, also known as "pink slime," in the coming months for the national school lunch program. (KSDK-TV)

"Pink slime," the mixture of connective tissue and beef scraps also known as "Lean Beef Trimmings," made news last month when McDonald's announced it would no longer use the controversial product. However, a report today shows that the U.S. Department of Agriculture thinks it is still a suitable product for the nation's children, as it is going to purchase millions of pounds of the product for the national school lunch program.

David Knowles reports for The Daily:

Partners in ‘Slime’: Feds Keep Buying Ammonia-treated Ground Beef for School Lunches

Made by grinding together connective tissue and beef scraps normally destined for dog food and rendering, BPI’s Lean Beef Trimmings are then treated with ammonia hydroxide, a process that kills pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli. The resulting pinkish substance is later blended into traditional ground beef and hamburger patties. [...]

The USDA, which plans to buy 7 million pounds of Lean Beef Trimmings from BPI [Beef Products, Inc.] in the coming months for the national school lunch program, said in a statement that all of its ground beef purchases “meet the highest standard for food safety.” [...]

...the USDA now finds itself in the odd position of purchasing a product that has recently been dropped by fast-food giants McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell.


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Knowles writes that two microbiologists believe that the product is just not "ground beef” or even "not meat." Gerald Zirnstein, who first coined the term "pink slime" in 2002 after a visit to BPI said he did not “consider the stuff to be ground beef.” Retired microbiologist Carl Custer told The Daily:

“We originally called it soylent pink. We looked at the product and we objected to it because it used connective tissues instead of muscle. It was simply not nutritionally equivalent [to ground beef]. My main objection was that it was not meat.”

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Food activist and chef Jamie Oliver brought "pink slime" to prime time last year on his Food Revolution show to demonstrate what kind of food many school cafeterias were serving:  

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Beef Products, Inc. has its own video on ammonia in foods and states that "[a]mmonia is essential for life." This video does not contain graphic images of the industrial food system, which can lead to E. coli contamination in beef, which is then treated with ammonia.

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