“Pink Slime” Beef Purchased by USDA

Pink slime, a beef byproduct used as an additive in ground beef, has been purchased in large quantities by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (about 7 million pounds) for use in school lunches.

Pink slime, a term coined by Dr. Gerald Zirnstein, is a mixture of leftover beef parts and beef trimmings that remain after larger beef cuts are trimmed down. These leftovers are heated (to separate the meat from the fat), spun in a centrifuge, and sprayed with ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria. The gas is classified by the Food and Drug Administration as “Generally Recognized as Safe,” putting it in the same regulatory category as baking soda, peanut oil, citric acid, and fish oil.

While the meat industry classifies pink slim as “Lean Finely Textured Beef,” some USDA scientists disagree with the name. “It’s economic fraud; it’s not fresh ground beef. It’s a substitute, a cheap substitute,” Dr. Zirnstein told ABC News in an interview. Another scientist called it “Soylent Pink,” claiming that it simply does not have the nutritional value of real ground beef.

Pink slime is currently used as an additive in about 70 percent of American beef.

Perhaps more disturbing than the product’s nutritional value is its bacterial content. According to a New York Time investigation from 2009, pink slime is significantly more dangerous that regular ground beef. Between 2005 and 2009, the Times reported, the beef additive tested positive for salmonella four times as often as traditional ground beef.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer