The Widdershins

Archive for March 12th, 2012

They put *what* in there?

Have you heard or seen any of the news recently regarding “pink slime”?

Pink slime was the name coined by Dr. Gerald Zirnstein, who used to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for some stuff that gets added into the ground beef you buy at the grocery store.  It’s also in the ground beef that is sold to school systems for use in school cafeterias.

Pink slime is made up of boneless beef “trimmings” that are spun in a centrifuge to separate the beef from the fat.  A man named Eldon Roth created a process by which the “trimmings” (I’m not calling this beef even though the USDA does) are placed into the centrifuges and once the beef and fat are separated, the “beef” is pushed into a tube the size of a pencil where it is treated with or exposed to ammonia gas; a “puff” they say.  Supposedly, this process along with the water in the “beef” helps to kill any pathogens such as E. coli. 

 At the end of the process, the beef is at least 90 percent lean and is used in meat supplies across the country. It rarely comprises more than 25 percent of the final meat product that consumers purchase and eat.

 Kitt Foshee who used to be a quality assurance manager with BPI said:

 “It kind of looks like Play-Doh,” he said. “It’s pink and frozen. It’s not what the typical person would consider meat.”

The pink stuff

The company calls the final product “Finely Textured Lean Beef.” Foshee when interviewed said “it was not as nutritious as ground beef because the protein comes mostly from connective tissue, not muscle meat.”

Of note is the fact that prior to Mr. Roth coming up with his process, and the Meat Industry and the USDA deciding that it was okay to call this “beef”, these trimmings were used in preparing pet food.

Now, you may be thinking, “I’ve never seen “pink slime” listed on the label of ground beef that I’ve bought”, and you won’t.  That’s because, according to Jim Avila of ABC News:

 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.

“The under-secretary said, ‘it’s pink, therefore it’s meat,’” Carl Custer a USDA scientist 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 hundreds of millions of dollars for Beef Products Inc., the makers of pink slime.

No, you won’t see or hear the term pink slime.  According to the meat industry trade group, American Meat Institute and J. Patrick Boyle, the President of AMI, the preferred term is BLBT, which stands for Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings.  Isn’t that more comforting sounding?

Aww, it sounds like something that might be in Mom’s Meatloaf recipe doesn’t it?  You can read his entire line of b.s here.  I especially loved this part:

 It’s the right thing to do and it ensures that our products remain as affordable as we can make them while helping to feed America and the world.”

Yeah, I feel about it too that way. 

So by now you may want to know if your local grocer uses pink slime in their ground meat.  Well you really won’t know unless you ask them because as I wrote above, it does not have to be listed as an ingredient or additive to the ground meat.

ABC News did some checking around and here is what they found from calling some stores.  The only stores of these chains we have in AL are Publix and Whole Foods.  The biggie chain here is Winn-Dixie and I think I’ll be calling them to see what’s in their ground beef.

1. Safeway
“We rely on the federal government to help guide us on food safety issues. USDA has been clear in its judgment that Lean Finely Textured Ground Beef is a safe source of nutrition. However, we are reviewing the matter at this time.”

2. Ahold (Stop & Shop/Giant)
“Stores operated by the divisions of Ahold USA do carry ground beef made with Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT), also called Finely Textured Beef (FTB). Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT) is beef and is absolutely safe for consumption. To make the product, beef companies use beef trimmings, which are the small cuts of beef that remain when larger cuts are trimmed down. These trimmings are USDA-inspected, wholesome cuts of beef. This process has been an industry standard for almost 20 years. Alternatives to the conventional ground beef supply, in the form of Certified Angus Beef and Nature’s Promise ground beef products, are available to customers in stores across all of the divisions of Ahold USA. These products do not include the use of BLBT. Customers are being encouraged to ask any meat associate should they have any questions or would like to be directed to meat that does not include Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings. Our labeling is in compliance with USDA regulations. BLBT is USDA tested and approved ground beef and therefore does not require labeling.”

3. Costco
Does not use pink slime.
“Anything that we sell at Costco we want to explain it’s origins, and I personally don’t know how to explain trim treated with ammonia in our ground beef,” Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance for Costco, told ABC News. “I just don’t know how to explain that. I’m not that smart.”

4. Publix
“We have never allowed the use of LFTB (pink slime) in our meat. It’s 100 percent ground beef with no LFTB.”

5. H-E-B
“All our ground beef sold at H-E-B is 100% pure with no additives.”

6. Whole Foods
Does not use pink slime.

7. Kroger
“We do not use finely textured beef in our fresh ground beef. … We are routinely presented the finely textured beef as an option, but have always refused.”

In addition to Whole Foods, Tops Markets told ABC News it does not use “pink slime.”

A viewer, Miles Herbert, wanted to know, “Is there any evidence that organic meat contains this pink slime?”

It turns out there isn’t. If your meat is stamped USDA Organic, it’s pure meat with no filler.  Otherwise, you can’t know from the packaging because pink slime does not have to appear on the label. And the USDA is giving no indication it will force meat packers to lift the veil of secrecy any time soon.

This is an open thread.


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