Chances are that you’ve heard the recent buzz about a lot of the meat we eat not really being meat at all. You may have also heard about the pink slime used in much of our meat supply. But do you know just what that pink slime is? Or how it made its way into the food that you eat? Or why it is being served in your child’s cafeteria at school?
What Is Pink Slime?
What exactly is this pink slime in meat that everyone is talking about? Well for starters, let’s talk about the meat itself. When making pink slime, the main ingredient is the meat. And herein lies problem number one. After all of the “good” cuts of meat have been used, what remains is the left-over pieces of meat by-products that are not safe for human consumption. This is because the meat comes from the cow’s hind. Those pieces have a greater likelihood of coming into contact with cow feces and being contaminated with E-coli, Salmonella and other dangerous bacteria.
Prior to the development of pink slime meat, those pieces of hind meat were either discarded or used only as an ingredient in pet food. In an effort to boost profits and cut back on food production costs, the larger meat processing companies have found a way to incorporate those low-quality pieces of meat into the human food supply. In order to do so, they have to add ammonia to the meat products to kill any E-coli or other harmful bacteria that may be present.
In addition to the meat, there are other unsavory animal parts that are used such as intestines, fat, connective tissue and other trimmings. At large meat processing plants, the meat by-products and trimmings are mechanically separated from the carcass and then liquefied. The liquefied meat is mixed with ammonia and then frozen into square blocks that are passed on to restaurants, grocery stores, schools and fast food companies. This concoction of ammonia and meat by-products is the pink slime you are hearing about.
Why Is It Added To Meat?
There is no way that those hind parts, connective tissue and other meat by-products would ever be made into consumable meat if they were not mixed with ammonia and turned into pink slime. The meat industry uses pink slime because it results in cheaper meat production, which boosts their top dollar. Not only is the lower quality meat itself cheaper, but by using the trimmings and other scrap parts of the body that would normally be discarded, the meat companies are eliminating waste.
Where Is It Served?
Unfortunately, pink slime is everywhere. And because the FDA does not require meat to be labeled as pink slime, it can be very difficult for the consumer to know where it is being sold. After the use of pink slime came under heavy scrutiny, some major fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell have ceased using pink slime in their meat. Many other fast food restaurants are still using pink slime and claim to continue to do so as long as the FDA considers it to be safe.
Pink slime is also heavily used in grocery store meats, especially hamburger meat. The majority of ground beef that is sold in the United States has pink slime added to it. This includes ground beef that is served in school cafeterias all over the country.
What Are The Risks Of Eating Pink Slime?
The ammonia that is added to pink slime meat to disinfect it is a powerful chemical ingredient that is commonly used in household cleaning agents, fertilizers and even some explosives. This ammonia is such a powerful chemical that if you were to mix it with the right kind of acids, you would be able to create your own do-it-yourself bomb.
And if that isn’t a big enough risk to worry about, there’s more. During taste tests, many companies found that as a result of the high levels of ammonia that were being added to pink slime, the meat product had a very chemically smell and some even had a chemical after-taste. To remedy the problem, manufacturer’s started adding less ammonia to the batched of pink slime. While this was effective at cutting back on the chemical scent and taste, it brought them full circle to the original problem in which the meat was riddled with dangerous bacteria. While the bacteria levels that were present on the meat were considered low, bacteria such as E-coli and Salmonella were indeed present.
What Can You Do To Get It Out Of Schools?
Recently, legislature was passed that states that schools have the right to decide if they want to serve pink slime in their lunchrooms. As parents, you may be wondering what you can do to make sure that your school does not opt for pink slime meat. The best thing you can do to get involved is inquire at your child’s school and find out what kind of meat is being served to the children. You have a right to know what your child is eating when he or she is at school. If you do not get answers right away, keep asking. Start in the lunchroom and work your way up the school board ladder from there.
If you find out that your school has chosen to serve pink slime to the students, take a stand. Start by speaking to other parents and informing them about exactly what is in the meat being served to their children. Knowledge is power. The more parents that know about it and voice their disapproval, the easier it will be to make your requests heard by the school board.
Attend parent teacher meetings and put the issue on the agenda. Start a petition and gather signatures. And don’t stop with just parents of students. Branch out to local day-care centers, play groups and libraries. All of these places have programs for young children who are not yet in school. Speak to the parents and explain the importance of ending the practice now before their child reaches the grade school level.
How Can You Avoid It?
As much as you may want to avoid pink slime, it may be a very difficult task for you to do so. The only foolproof way to ensure that you are never eating pink slime is to stop eating meat. If you can’t give up your hamburgers and other carnivorous meals altogether, you can at least cut back on them. When it comes to eating meat, think high quality but low quantity.
When you are purchasing meat, opt for local organic, grass-fed varieties. Make sure you choose meat that is labeled as 100 percent and containing no fillers. Another option is to forego grocery stores and only purchase your meat from a butcher. You can watch while the butcher grinds the meat into ground beef right in front of you. Some grocery stores will do this also if you present them with a chuck roast and ask them to grind it fresh. Never purchase hamburger patties. Almost all of them are made with pink slime, unless they state otherwise.