Pink Slime — It’s What’s for Dinner!

ABC News wants to put you off your burger:

Gerald Zirnstein grinds his own hamburger these days. Why? Because this former United States Department of Agriculture scientist and, now, whistleblower, knows that 70 percent of the ground beef we buy at the supermarket contains something he calls “pink slime.”
“Pink slime” is beef trimmings. Once only used in dog food and cooking oil, the trimmings are now sprayed with ammonia so they are safe to eat and added to most ground beef as a cheaper filler.
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.
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 LATimes prefers to ‘teach the controversy’, because both sides… :

… Last month, as KTLA reported, McDonald’s decided to cease using the additive in its hamburgers. This decision came after prodding by TV chef Jamie Oliver. On his “Food Revolution,” the disgusted food activist says the additive is made of “all of the bits that no one wants.”
The USDA, however, says the additive is safe to eat. The department is so satisfied with the stuff that it plans to buy 7 million pounds of ground beef containing “pink slime” in coming months for the national school lunch program, the Daily reported on Monday. And that’s created a whole new stink…
Meanwhile, over at the Cattle Network, American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle defended the process as well as the product in an article Thursday, saying the “lean beef trimmings” were “absolutely edible” and that using them ensured that “lean, nutritious, safe beef” did not go to waste.
It would indeed seem great fodder for a snarky British tabloid headline, considering that in the United Kingdom lean beef trimmings are banned for human consumption.

And why would the USDA be so satisfied with the stuff”? Well, school nutrition programs are chronically underfunded — it’s only kids who eat the stuff, mostly poor kids whose parents have no political power — so frugality is important. Also, friends with low standards in the right places:

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.

Yeah, the salaries for USDA inspectors are probably chronically underfunded as well. And besides, if the ammonia actually kills E. coli and salmonella, that may be an argument in its favor. From Maren McKenna’s great “Superbug” blog at Wired magazine, “High Levels of Resistant Bacteria on Meat (Again)“:

A new report is out from the federal collaboration that monitors antibiotic resistance in animals, retail meat and people, and the news is not good.
The full title is the 2010 Retail Meat Report from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System. This report is issued by the Food and Drug Administration; the humans one comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the animals one from the US Department of Agriculture. It reports the results of testing on 5,280 meat samples collected in 2010 in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. (Those are sites of state labs participating in a federal surveillance network, FoodNet, plus one volunteer lab, Maryland.)…
The report — which is broken down first by foodborne organism and then by meat type — notes a number of instances where either the percentage of bacteria that are antibiotic resistant, or the complexity of the resistance, is rising…
… [M]ore than half of the ground turkey samples carried E. coli that were resistant to at least three different classes of antibiotics, meaning that, if those bacteria caused a foodborne infection in a person, none of those antibiotic classes would work to cure it. Almost 30 percent of chicken breast and ground turkey samples carried Salmonella bacteria that were resistant to five different classes of antibiotics. Almost 29 percent of ground-beef samples carried Salmonella strains that were resistant to six.

Click the link for more details, and a list with further reading.

And this seems like the right place to recommend a NYTimes article I’ve been saving; Mark Bittman explains why the score stands at “Bacteria 1, FDA 0”:

… It’s not like this is happening without a reason; the little germs have plenty of practice fighting the drugs designed to kill them in the industrially raised animals to which antibiotics are routinely fed. And although it’s economical for producers to drug animals prophylactically, there are many strong arguments against the use of those drugs, including their declining efficacy in humans….
In 1977… the Food and Drug Administration, aware of the health risks of administering antibiotics to healthy farm animals, proposed to withdraw its prior approval of putting penicillin and tetracycline in animal feed. Per their procedure, the F.D.A. then issued two “notices of opportunity for a hearing,” which were put on hold by Congress until further research could be conducted. On hold is exactly where the F.D.A.’s requests have been since your dad had sideburns.
Until [December 2011], when the agency decided to withdraw them…
… A staggering 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to farm animals, mostly, as I said, prophylactically: the low-dose drugs help the animals fatten quickly and presumably help ward off diseases caused by squalid living conditions. The animals become perfect breeding grounds for bacteria to gain resistance to the drugs, and our inadequate testing procedures allow them to make their way into stores and our guts.
The F.D.A. knows all about this; in 2010 the agency issued a draft guidance proposing that big agriculture voluntarily (there’s a non-starter for you) stop the use of low-dose antibiotics in healthy farm animals. “The development of resistance to this important class of drugs,” the F.D.A. asserted, “and the resulting loss of their effectiveness as antimicrobial therapies, poses a serious public health threat.” Good. Nice. But toothless…
Here’s the nut: The F.D.A. has no money to spare, but the corporations that control the food industry have all they need, along with the political power it buys. That’s why we can say this without equivocation: public health, the quality of our food, and animal welfare are all sacrificed to the profits that can be made by raising animals in factories. Plying “healthy” farm animals (the quotation marks because how healthy, after all, can battery chickens be?) with antibiotics — a practice the EU banned in 2006 — is as much a part of the American food system as childhood obesity and commodity corn. Animals move from farm to refrigerator case in record time; banning prophylactic drugs would slow this process down, and with it the meat industry’s rate of profit. Lawmakers beholden to corporate money are not about to let that happen, at least not without a fight.

Bon appetit, everybody!

134 replies
  1. 1
    ericblair says:

    I love how Big Beef Anus PR flack defends it as “absolutely edible”, which also works for cockroaches and toenail clippings.

    Soylent Green isn’t even people, apparently, because that would be too expensive per pound.

  2. 2
    pablo says:

    Soylent Pink!

  3. 3
    NobodySpecial says:


    Soylent Green isn’t even people, apparently, because that would be too expensive per pound.

    Therefore, the pro-life regime. More babies = higher supply, therefore lower prices. You dine on some welfare baby, and everyone wins!

  4. 4
    cathyx says:

    I’m glad my daughter takes her lunch to school.

  5. 5
    cathyx says:

    Is there any way we can find out which ground beef products contain or don’t contain this pink slime?

  6. 6
    Schlemizel says:

    My grandmothers brother was a machinist for Swift-Armor going back to before WWII. He talked about the bad old days & said at the time you were better off eating a can of dog food than canned meat stew. They had more inspectors and tougher regulation on the dog food line. That started changing under FDR and was continuing when he retired around 1970. Then ‘something happened’ in the 1980s & that progress has been undone in bits and pieces over the last 30 years.

    Bon appetit indeed

  7. 7
    cathyx says:

    @Schlemizel: That ‘something happening’ was Ronald Reagan getting elected.

  8. 8
    Soonergrunt says:

    @cathyx: The industry refers to it as “lean finely textured beef,” so maybe you can look for that in the additives.

  9. 9
    The Dangerman says:

    Gee, thanks, I was just about ready to fix breakfast.

    Big Agra and Big Oil are in a race to see who can kill us all first. Assholes.

  10. 10
    Hal says:

    Is beef cheaper than chicken? It seems school lunch programs would be better off cutting out the red meat all together and going with poultry.

  11. 11
    Yuppers says:

    Unfortunately, the best way to be sure you’re not getting pink slime (now with delicious ammonia!) is to grind your own beef — if you have a kitchenaid stand mixer, there’s an attachment that makes this a snap.

    (my only complaint is that none of the dies sold by Kitchen Aid offer a sufficiently coarse grind for my preferences… but there are folks out there who machine larger holed dies…and sell them on eBay)

  12. 12
    Elie says:

    I moved out to the East (Va/DC area) from northwestern WA state this fall. Food out here sucks. Even Whole Paycheck doesnt label where its vegetables and fruit come from — beyond USA or wherever. Forget the other stores. The range of true whole foods, organics and just good quality meats, vegetables etc do not exist except in limited specialty stores and to some extent, farmer’s markets. There are organic meats, etc sold at the farmer’s markets but they are extrordinarily expensive. I don’t mind paying a bit of a premium,since these are small holdings, but one outfit was selling their pasture raised turkeys for $110.00 last Thanksgiving!

    People don’t seem to care about therefore won’t fight for not only the food output, but the way of life to grow high quality food — food without pesticides, and chemicals, grown in balance with nature and the natural resources of good water, clean air and respect.

    The food reflects our souls. We can fix it though. We can…

  13. 13
    BO_Bill says:

    This is one more reason to eat sausage.

  14. 14
    The Dangerman says:


    …which also works for cockroaches and toenail clippings.

    Don’t give them any ideas!

  15. 15
    PeakVT says:

    @cathyx: I think “ground-in-store” beef is generally okay. Most fresh organic is probably safe, too. Ask at the meat counter.

  16. 16
    Brazilian Rascal says:

    The soviets fed their people sawdust and cardboard because their corruption and inneficiency meant there wasn’t enough to go around for everyone.

    Western corporations feed their customers waste slurry, cornstarch and synthetic paste because it’s all they think their customers deserve, and because it makes for better profits.

    Marvel at the difference.

  17. 17
    Steve in DC says:


    yep I do


    so you are around here as well. If you want, you can get in on a beef buy. There are lots of local farmers out in VA, including one rather famous crazy libertarian who was in the movie Food INC (yeah that guy is here). It’s all free range stuff. The catch is, you do have to buy whole animals or large portions and do it in advance.

    Group buys are where you get in with a few friends and split say a dozen chickens, a cow, and a pig or some lamb. The quality is top notch, and you go pick it up. My pick up is in Mount Pleasant.

    Also the warf around here does have top notch real seafood, but you have to clean it and do all the work yourself.

    Also try the Hmart (korean grocery store they are out in Fallschurch and Laurel) better quality than whole foods, cheaper, and it’s often labeled.

    Don’t give up yet, the food is fine, most people just don’t know how to get it.

  18. 18
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Then ‘something happened’ in the 1980s & that progress has been undone in bits and pieces over the last 30 years.

    Three words.

    Ronald Wilson Reagan.

    On edit: refreshing fizzy beverage to cathyx.

  19. 19
    MattF says:

    So, probably kosher or halal beef would be OK… But serving kosher or halal meat in the schools would be enforcing sharia law, and therefore violating the Constitutional rights of Christians to eat garbage.

  20. 20
    ChrisZ says:

    This is like getting all upset about how sausage is made.

  21. 21
    Elie says:

    @Steve in DC:

    Bless you steve… great suggestions…

    Hmmm – I like that buy a beef suggestion… also the market tips…

    VERY appreciated.

    How do we educate people though and increase the demand and access to this? Its way too hard here…

  22. 22
    Brachiator says:

    “Pink slime” is beef trimmings. Once only used in dog food and cooking oil, the trimmings are now sprayed with ammonia so they are safe to eat and added to most ground beef as a cheaper filler.

    A non story, for pure food fetishists only. The McDonald’s McRib sandwich is popular and tasty, and doesn’t contain a lick of ribs. Ban pink slime, or keep it. It doesn’t really that much.

  23. 23
    The Other Chuck says:


    You mean their constitutional rights to force others to eat garbage.

  24. 24
    cathyx says:

    @ChrisZ: I think your analogy would have been more accurate if you said Spam.

  25. 25
    muddy says:

    @Yuppers: I grind beef, chicken, whatever with my KitchenAid as well. It’s great. The texture you get with poultry is really different from what you get in the store. I stopped buying pre-ground meat some years ago, after reading that ground poultry had all the skin and stuff in it, and that ground beef was apt to contain pork. I eat pork, but I want to know when I am eating it. Also I think pre-ground meat goes bad faster since more of it has been exposed to the air. My only exception is the grass fed ground beef I get locally.

  26. 26
    RossInDetroit says:


    It’s a matter of degree. You can describe and name beef trimmings in a way that will revolt people, but the same could be applied to most factory produced animal products.
    Industrial meat production is very unpleasant in a lot of ways. If you decide to eat it anyway, fine. Most people do.

  27. 27
    Anya says:

    This is criminal. Who do we need to pressure so this travesty is reversed? Maybe I should send a letter to Mrs. Obama since she’s working on issues relating to kids and nutrition.

  28. 28

    Haven’t et a molecule of beef for 9 years now, knock on wood/head. This is just one more thing that I made a good choice. About the only meat I eat these days is wild caught sea food. And maybe once a month serving of poke chop. The rest is industrial assisted suicide, or close enough to that.

  29. 29
    RossInDetroit says:

    Commercially ground meats often have ice added during grinding. This keeps it cool and solid while it goes through the hot grinder, and also adds weight (profit). Ever thaw ground beef and find a puddle in the package? That’s your money you’re pouring down the drain. This may be a major reason why home-ground meats handle, cook and taste different.

  30. 30
    muddy says:

    @General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero): Grass fed beef has good Omega 3. Buy local.

  31. 31
    Nicole says:

    For any of the Balloon Juicers in NYC, a butcher opened in my neighborhood- Harlem Shambles, just off the 116th St C/B stop. All grass fed. Highly recommend. They sell some pretty yummy looking bread, too.

  32. 32
    Anya says:

    @MattF: My dad is agnostic but he never eats any meat that’s not halal or kosher. I never understood this fascinating paradox.

  33. 33
    Rp says:

    I’m not sure why this is such a big deal. Isn’t this the ultimate example of efficient, nose to tail eating?

  34. 34
    Joel says:

    You know what’s funny is that I’ve been grinding my own meat in the food processor for some time, mainly because it tastes better. Doesn’t surprise me that you’re going to get some weird microbiology going on in preground meat, you’re basically inoculating a sterile culture (the unexposed meat is essentially sterile).

  35. 35
    muddy says:

    @Anya: I guess it’s about the cruelty factor?

  36. 36
    Anya says:

    OT, but since we’re talking food… does anyone of a pure krill oil supplement brand?

  37. 37
    Steve in DC says:


    This guy is right here if you aren’t within 4 hours of him, he won’t sell to you.

    The warf

    Here is Joe’s website

    You can join a buying club on his website. He’s one of the largest so you can get cuts and ground beef through his clubs. I highly recommend him. Many of the others, though much cheaper, you are looking at a half cow buy at minimum. Joe is just easier to get things from. Granted, “from the farm” prices make some peoples heads spin, but it’s better meat, and it helps you eat less of it. The chicken is to die for.

    The problem is really the price and the hassle. The few like Joe that do local pickups, the prices crack peoples eyes open. But again, you can get 5x hormone fueled small wimpy breasts from safey, or get 2x from him at the same price and it’s all good meat. For me it’s a no brainer.

    The cheaper stuff, well, finding enough friends to go in on a cow, and going to pick it up, or find the drop, is way too much hassle for some. It’s also a cash up front sort of deal. You pay the farmer in cash, and when it’s ready for slaughter you get your food. Most people don’t like paying for a cow and not seeing any meat for a good several months.

    Last whole animal I got was a pig, and we only got charged the slaughter and basic cleaning. We did the rest ourselves and pit roasted him whole, was great, feed a good 20 people at our party.

  38. 38
    Steve in DC says:

    @muddy or the health factor.

    The problem is actual farm raised hand slaughtered meat, well, in DC, it’s only at those 300 bucks a person weeks in advance reservation places, and you don’t even want to see the wine menu prices.

  39. 39
    daveX99 says:

    You will obey me while I lead you
    And eat the garbage that I feed you
    Until the day that we don’t need you
    Don’t go for help…no one will heed you
    Your mind is totally controlled
    It has been stuffed into my mold
    And you will do as you are told
    Until the rights to you are sold

    – Frank Zappa, I’m the Slime

  40. 40
    quannlace says:

    Goddamn, I’m so glad I don’t eat read meat. I’m not a vegetarian by a long shot, but I’ve never liked the taste of beef. And between the specter of mad cow disease and shit like this…..

    pure krill oil

    The Krill? Wasn’t that the alien population in the movie, ‘Forbidden Planet” ?

  41. 41
    Chris T. says:

    @Anya: Both halal and kosher mean that someone whose interest is “making sure the food is just food” has kept an eye on the process. So even if you’re an atheist, if you want more people keeping track of how your food is prepared (to make sure nobody spits on it for instance), it’s not a bad idea to look for those marks.

  42. 42

    ‘Pink slime’ is a provocative name, but this description doesn’t sound like they mean the famous ‘lips and anus’ meats we traditionally don’t want. This reads that when they cut the beef for grinding, they use a machine to separate the meat around the edge from the thick fat, and then add the meat back into the main cut. ‘Pink slime’ makes it sound grotesque and dirty, but this seems pretty dull to me.

    EDIT – They do add the meat back in at a later stage., but it’s still the same meat.

  43. 43
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    Looks like I picked the right year to get that meat grinder attachment for the ol’ KitchenAid.

    Of course, I got it because I wanted to be able to try out different mixtures for burgers and such (last time, it was brisket, chuck short ribs, and pork shoulder–came out terrific), but this is a good reason, too.

  44. 44
    Scott says:

    “All the parts that no one wants” is the very definition of sausage. I agree, though, they should be chemical and bug free

  45. 45
    Mnemosyne says:


    If you’re worried about the cruelty factor, you’re better off with halal than with kosher — halal rules allow the animal to be knocked unconscious with a bolt of electricity before slaughter, but kosher rules require it to be awake when it’s killed.

    I don’t remember how or why I found that out via Google, but I did.

  46. 46
    MattF says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: Well, except for the business of having to pickle it in ammonia to make it safe for human consumption. I find that a bit disconcerting.

  47. 47
    kerFuFFler says:

    What do people think bologna is anyway?

  48. 48
    Scott says:

    @muddy: If you do a lot of grinding, I would buy a grinder for that purpose. There is just too much stress on a Kitchaid to use their grinding attachments. Plus you can find coarser grinder with a special purpose grinder.

  49. 49

    Again, sounds horrible, is actually nothing. It’s not pickled with ammonia, they put it in an ammonia gas environment to kill the bacteria that are there because they’re on all meat, not because this is a particularly unhygienic cut.

  50. 50
    scav says:

    @quannlace: Careful you don’t get Krillitane oil, that stuff explodes. Also can be found in school kitchens, coincidentally.

  51. 51
    Yutsano says:

    @Mnemosyne: In kashrut butchery the animal is not supposed to give any expression of pain. If the animal cries during the slaughtering process, it becomes trefe and is discarded. So yes the animal must stay awake, but the shochet must avoid any unnecessary cruelty at all costs.

    The irony here is halal meat is considered kosher. And vice versa. There’s a lot of crossover buying at both kinds of butchers.

  52. 52
    Joel says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: The bacteria are only on the surface of the meat; after all, the animal was sterile when it died (otherwise it would have had died of sepsis). The exception, of course, being the upper and lower ends of the digestive tract, which are colonized by bacteria.

    By grinding meat so far in advance, you’re introducing a lot of bacteria and other microorganisms to previously sterile meat. That said, I do agree that it doesn’t matter whether the bacteria came from the surface of prime tenderloin or from caul fat.

  53. 53
    JPL says:


    violating the Constitutional rights of Christians to eat garbage.

    I am stealing that line.

  54. 54
    muddy says:

    @Steve in DC: I can’t afford to go to restaurants unless someone invites me, so I am only speaking of the price of plain meat. I used to think the extra money was too much for the better stuff, but a relative was moving and gave me a freezer full of free-range organic chickens, grassy beef etc. I probably would never have taken the step myself, being frugal.

    I was amazed over the course of several months at the changes in my body. I did not alter my diet or exercise at all, the only change was the quality of the flesh. I not only lost weight, but the weight I had was distributed very differently. This is over and above the difference in taste.

    Just look at a supermarket egg yolk, it is yellow. The good ones are practically orange. I felt like I had done a blind study on my own health. I did not believe, and even when I believed I still thought it was too much to pay. I’m a believer now, and gave up other things to include this in my budget.

    The main bottleneck around here is the slaughtering. I have been given to understand that hand local butchering is in demand across the nation.

    This mobile unit is probably a lot kinder to the animals too, as they don’t need to travel before their end. Probably less stress hormones in the meat.

  55. 55
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    I can indeed verify from personal experience working there that (at least at my WF) that produce was indeed labeled quite often with the specific farm it came from (as well at meat).

  56. 56

    Sure, but none of that has anything to do with the quality of these trimmings, it’s inherent to prepackaged ground beef. Said ground beef has never been a special health risk.

  57. 57
    muddy says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: I still don’t want the ammonia, I don’t care if it is gaseous or liquid.

  58. 58
    Mnemosyne says:


    But that’s kind of the point: people expect sausage and bologna to be made of offal and scraps from the cutting room floor. They don’t expect their ground beef to be made from the same stuff, because that’s not what it’s advertised as being.

  59. 59
    JPL says:

    Carlton Farms in GA is an organic farm with delivery and drop off places in the Atlanta area. A while ago, a son convinced me to pick up raw milk for him and now I’m buying meat, eggs and produce from him. The cheese is awesome. For those who live in the Atlanta and north GA area, here is the link.

  60. 60
    muddy says:

    @Mnemosyne: A long time ago in Iran, I went on a visit to the “hot dog factory”. The processing facility was feet from the barn with the pigs. I presume this was specially done for Americans, of course the Iranians didn’t typically eat pork. Anyway, there was a conveyor belt that started outdoors between the 2 buildings, they put the pigs on it, and as they went through the opening they got an electric shock, and came through insensible. As kids we thought the electric door was terrible (esp. as they had just showed us the piglets), and they did not explain the reason to us.

    A lot of kids fell out puking at various stages of the tour, especially at the end when they offered hot dogs and bologna. What was swirling in the vats really just looked like pink ice cream, or as we now know it, slime.

  61. 61
    scav says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: Slime’s got a hell of a lot more surface area and the introduction of an additional step is just another place where things can go wrong. One easy way to clear this up is clear labeling and not doing it behind the consumers backs, so they can make the decision on their own.

  62. 62
    muddy says:

    @Scott: I have a really old hand-cranked one with a lot of plates that I use sometimes. I do grind my meat when I want ground meat, but that is not all the time and I am only feeding myself at this point, so the volume is not huge. Thanks for the tip though.

  63. 63
    muddy says:

    @Mnemosyne: KitchenAid also has a sausage stuffing attachment. They have casings at regular supermarkets like Hannaford. has a number of pre-mixed sausage seasonings if you don’t like to take extra trouble. I recommend Penzey’s in general.

  64. 64

    Why? It’s no better or worse than any method of sterilizing any food. You’re getting minute, harmless, and untastable amounts of a chemical that you get minute, harmless, and untastable amounts of all the time. Ammonia is everywhere. We’re not talking about the meat being dunked in a bottle of ammonia cleanser here. It has the added advantage that as an inorganic antibiotic bacteria cannot develop dangerous resistances. Like I said, the meat is not being treated for being especially unhygienic. This article looks like a classic example of selecting your information and terms so that they sound bad.

  65. 65
    Gretchen says:

    If you’re near Kansas City, Pisciotta Farms sells organic meat at the City Market, as well as eggs. Good stuff.
    I always try to buy food that’s an amalgam of as few individuals as possible. If you buy hamburger from a big meat-packer, they may combine the meat of 10,000 cows in one load of hamburger, so it one of the 10,000 is contaminated with E. coli, the whole shipment is contaminated. If you buy a spinach mix that is a combination of a truckload of spinach heads, if one is contaminated, the whole truckload is contaminated. I prefer to buy a side of beef from a single cow, or hamburger from a small farm, or one head of lettuce rather than a bag of lettuce mix, figuring that it’s minimizing my chance of contamination. And I think it’s very worth it to buy meat and eggs from farms that don’t use antibiotics and hormones – I really don’t want to trust my cooking to kill the antiobiotic resistant bacteria -I’d rather they just not be there in the first place.

  66. 66
    muddy says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: The only think I do for food “sterilizing” is proper temperature control both before and after cooking. I don’t see why it has to be more complicated than that.

  67. 67

    No, a gelatin – assuming it is gelatinous, since ‘pink slime’ is blatantly picked as a scare name rather than to be accurate – has less surface area than ground meat, which is a heap of large particles. ‘An extra step where something can go wrong’ is not a real danger. You might as well describe it as an extra step to make things more right.

    This article doesn’t tell us anything about whether these trimmings are more or less dangerous, higher or lower quality, or more or less appetizing than the rest of the ground beef. Maybe it is or isn’t. All it does is give us a scary sounding name, ‘pink slime’.

  68. 68

    Because you’re not slaughtering the animal and storing its meat for shipping. You’re either dealing with an already nearly finished product, or cutting out the ‘storing for shipping’ part of the process, which is the biggest speedbump in all agriculture of any kind.

  69. 69
    JGabriel says:

    ABC News:

    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 … Then, it is frozen and shipped to grocery stores and meat packers, where it is added to most ground beef…

    LA Times:

    … McDonald’s decided to cease using the additive in its hamburgers.

    So … even Mickey D’s burgers are healthier than ground chuck from the supermarket?



  70. 70
    muddy says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: That’s right, I am not shipping it. About slaughtering, I have only cut up animals that have been shot. Not just hunting, but we shot the pigs in the brain too, as the possibility of not killing them with one throat slash was unpleasant.

    I guess what I am for is more local food in general, thus making these practices moot. Factory settings make it cheaper, but then there is shipping etc to add on. In the olden dayz we ate close to home, I hope the pendulum swings back.

  71. 71
    Jennifer says:

    I’m having a hard time squaring ABC’s report with this report from the NY Times over 2 years ago.

    ABC says Joann Smith approved pink slime as an additive back in the early 90s. NY Times says pink slime wasn’t ok’d until 2001, and the company that makes it wasn’t even producing it at the time Ms. Smith would have been with USDA.

    Don’t know why ABC would try to paint Bush the Elder with the sins of Bush the Lesser, but given that the NY Times report is better fleshed-out and the timeline of adoption by burger chains and school lunch programs, it looks like the Times report suggesting that pink slime didn’t enter the food chain until 2001 – 2002 is the correct one.

  72. 72
    muddy says:

    @Gretchen: This, this, a thousand times this. I will always choose a local product with no organic seal than an organic one from overseas. It’s like the “too many cooks” argument, too many hands are passed through to the detriment of the product.

  73. 73
    Keith says:

    I have this feeling that in 20-30 years, we’re going to have this spike of kidney disease cases in young adults due to chronic, low-level exposure to ammonia as kids.

  74. 74
    muddy says:

    @Keith: C’mon, you know it would only be due to evil vaccines. The ammonia is just fine until you mix it with all the mercury.

  75. 75
    MonkeyBoy says:

    I don’t see why the school lunch program is not controlled by the Dept of Education rather than Agriculture.

    At least that way foisting pink slime off on kids would require the corruption of two independent bureaucracies.

  76. 76
    Comrade Mary says:

    It can be tough for single and/or urban people to afford and store an entire half cow, but an alternative to persuading your friends to go in with you is to look for a buying club.

    Here in Toronto, West Side Beef splits up one side of beef among 15 people, giving about 20 pounds each for $150. In any given delivery, you get a mix of cuts, plus ground beef and freshly made beef stock.

    When I first saw that price, it seemed really high to me, but this is grass-fed, locally raised, hormone-free meat. As I have already shifted my meat eating patterns to “curry with chickpeas PLUS a few ounces of meat”, I think I can adapt. I was supposed to get my first share this week, but my work schedule was upside down and I wasn’t free to go downtown to pick it up, so I’m on for the next one.

  77. 77
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Keith: If there’s one substance kidneys are really good at tolerating then it’s ammonia. It’s almost like they evolved over millions of years for exposure to just that particular chemical.

    I’m trying to remember but aren’t there recipes involving cooking specifically with ammoniacal compounds? We won’t mention sodium hydroxide and lutefisk…

  78. 78
    Steve in DC says:


    Yeah I general I don’t eat out, it’s hard to get good food that doesn’t cost a kidney.

  79. 79
    Brachiator says:


    I have this feeling that in 20-30 years, we’re going to have this spike of kidney disease cases in young adults due to chronic, low-level exposure to ammonia as kids.

    Huge difference between some food products being briefly exposed to ammonia and human beings being “chronically” exposed to ammonia.


    C’mon, you know it would only be due to evil vaccines. The ammonia is just fine until you mix it with all the mercury.

    Fair point. The misinformation over food production here does remind me of the irrational anti vaccine crowd.

    In the olden dayz we ate close to home, I hope the pendulum swings back.

    A lot less true than you think. There have been food products traded over long distances as long as there has been civilizations. And what do you mean by local? Should Florida, California, and mid west agriculture shut down, and people be limited to be able to eat only what can be grown or shipped within, say, a 10 mile radius of their homes?

  80. 80
    Steve in DC says:


    Indeed, and I eat a lot of raw animal products. I’d just rather buy a side from one damn cow from a local place and be done with it. Fuck all the rest of that noise having it come cross country to me, ugh.

  81. 81
    Amir Khalid says:

    Just curious — how would going exclusively to halal/kosher meat work to avoid pink slime work for you guys if you’re looking for ground pork?

  82. 82
    Steve in DC says:


    DO NOT BUY ORGANIC EVER. Tons of local farmers can’t get the label for odd reasons. Such as “butchering outside” or “killing outside” instead of doing it in a… chemcial clogged slaughter house.

    That’s half the reason farmers here sell directly. Because they slaughter the animals and process some of them outside and then wrap them up and give them to you. We picked up chickens like that. And the last pig we got was… killed outside and then butchered inside.

    Can’t pass the organic label because it wasn’t killed inside and then chem washed.

    Shit tons of farmers can’t afford to get the label, or they actually slaughter and process their meat in a honest fashion which means the label can’t be put on it.

    Organic is bullshit.

  83. 83
    HT says:

    @Keith: What? Ammonia is highly water soluble AND highly volatile (evaporates easily). The act of cooking the meat will remove any traces of ammonia not created by the act of cooking beef in the first place. The basic act of cooking food means engaging in a highly complex series of chemical reactions.

    Ammonia (NH3) is the most basic form of substances (amines) that include amino acids, which are some of the essential nutrients we get from food.

    I haven’t seen any objections to “pink slime” so far that don’t boil down to “Ew, icky!”

  84. 84
    Steve in DC says:


    There is halal pork here in DC. Not everybody follows the strict “can’t eat pork” rules. We have a massive African population here, and a ton of them are FOB types. You can get it.

    It’s not “religious halal” it’s just “slaughtered halal” people want it.

  85. 85
    Joel says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: I’m of the mind that gamma sterilization is the best way to go about it, but the public obviously doesn’t agree.

  86. 86
    ColleenMary says:

    If you’re in the Twin Cities, Pastures A Plenty comes in once a month from western MN with terrific organic pork, beef, chicken etc. Find their website and get on their mailing list so you can order and know when the van stops where. The Van der Pol family runs Pastures A Plenty (pigs), and another Van der Pol raises cows, and they partner up with a few other friends/farms as well. Another terrific option for beef is Moonstone Farms, run by Audrey Arner and Richard Handeen. I lived in western MN for several years and ate food raised by people I knew–the hardest part about coming back to the Cities has been the food . . .

  87. 87
    Joel says:

    @HT: Centrifugal separation of meat is icky, however. Pretty damned icky.

    I’m in favor of being less wasteful, though. Just label the stuff and make it cheap.

  88. 88
    muddy says:

    @Steve in DC: If I were going to eat kidneys I would go out to get them though! I love steak and kidney pie, but the blanching required stank (literally) and I did not attempt it more than once.

  89. 89
    Steve in DC says:


    SPAM! Actually not bad eats. Yeah I don’t mind the stuff, just call it what it is. Don’t call it burgers.

  90. 90
    muddy says:

    @Brachiator: I did not say people should be limited. I stated my preference and hope that it will become more common.

    Of course things have been traded over distance forever. Neanderthals had seashell ornaments when they were not near the sea. But not typically meat.

  91. 91
    Steve in DC says:


    soak them in milk for two hours first, then do it. Thank me later.

  92. 92
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Steve in DC:
    To me, “halal pork” is a self-contradictory phrase. If you slaughter a pig halal-style, the pork might be less of a health hazard for you to eat; but it’s still haram, and if I ate it, God would definitely still smite me.

  93. 93
    muddy says:

    @Steve in DC: I agree, the organic label does not mean much to me. I have a friend who was a vegetarian, she wanted to get back to some flesh for health reasons. She says to me that she will be sure to look for an organic label. I said that organic is not equal to “good for you”, look for grass-fed. I said a plate of shit is organic, want to eat that? A lot of people don’t understand what organic means.

  94. 94
    Steve in DC says:


    Here is the gift of the USA, your terms use all meanings and get melting potted into mush with the rest of the stuff! Progress!

    But halal is pretty much a slaughtering method here, as is kosher.

    Take it as a compliment.

  95. 95
    scav says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: You may not more about the surface area of gelatin, but at one point they were scraps and that sounded like surface area to me. Technically a step is a step, it may make things right, it may make things worse (gunk in the filters, tubs, etc. or just being skipped in the interest of time one week, etc.) I’m not even trying to get involved on the whole is it worthwhile or not, I’m just not finding your “it’s all a complete nothingburger, no difference at all” arguments convincing from a technical viewpoint, especially as you seem to admit you don’t know much about what’s underneath either.

  96. 96
  97. 97
    muddy says:

    @HT: Well, “Eww, icky” is enough to make me lose my appetite, so that’s plenty.

  98. 98
    Nerull says:

    @Keith: Er, you realize ammonia is naturally produced by your body, right? Your system has evolved to deal with way larger amounts of it than anything that could be left behind in food.

  99. 99

    @Frankensteinbeck: check out the picture in the Vegsource link I posted. It’s not what most people think of when they think of meat, and it’s not appetizing, either.

  100. 100
    muddy says:

    @Steve in DC: Milk, eh? I’ll give it a try, but maybe cook it outdoors just in case.

  101. 101
    Ohio Mom says:

    Anyone who wants to claim that kosher = humanely slaughtered, read the book Postville about the kosher plant in Postville, Iowa.

    And not only is kosher not necessarily more humane for the animals, the kosher plants are just as inhumane for their (hugely) undocumented work-force as any of the non-kosher large meat-packing operations.

    Sign me, It’s a shande fa di goyim

  102. 102
    Steve in DC says:


    Yeah, I know the guy I get my meat from is not “organic” by label…. though he doesn’t even bother with it. It’s a small farm in VA and all the animals roam about with each other. He was denied it and got shat on by the FDA for “mixing animals” “outside slaughtering” “outside processing” it made me laugh.

    Plus they don’t like it that he lets people slaugther and process their own meat as well.

  103. 103
    Jennifer says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: The trimmings ARE more dangerous, for the simple reasong that the “trimmings” come from the outside/inside of the carcass, i.e., those parts most likely to be contaminated with e. coli or salmonella. Hence the need to “sanitize” them with ammonia. I suggest you read the NY Times article I linked in my last comment for the various reasons why using the trimmings is probably not all that great of an idea.

  104. 104
    muddy says:

    @Hillary Rettig: The Vegsource link did not work for me.

  105. 105
    HT says:

    @Hillary Rettig: And when people see beef they don’t think of cows either. That doesn’t make any of this rational.

  106. 106
    kerFuFFler says:


    people expect sausage and bologna to be made of offal and scraps from the cutting room floor. They don’t expect their ground beef to be made from the same stuff, because that’s not what it’s advertised as being.

    Oh absolutely. I am all for thorough labeling and consumer protections and I think it’s good to reduce the amount of antibiotics in our industrialized food production system. But I just think it’s silly for people to be so hysterical about this, calling it “slime” when people here eat so much bologna, hotdogs and sausages. Would people be having such a cow over cold cuts being put in a blender before using them to extend ground beef (but labeling it honestly)? I don’t think so. I wish the discussion of this issue was more about the actual nutritional merits (or lack thereof!), cost benefits to consumers (if any)and any other important issues. Just saying the stuff is gross and pink and slimy seems an unnecessarily sensationalist approach.

  107. 107
    Jennifer says:

    Also, too: if you don’t want to eat pink slime, buy ground round, ground chuck, or ground sirloin.

    Labelling requirements mean that if the package says “ground round” then all the meat must come from the round cut. Same for “chuck” and “sirloin.”

    I probably haven’t bought any hamburger meat in over 10 years, because I long ago switched to the ground chuck/round/sirloin due to their lower fat content.

  108. 108
    HT says:

    @Joel: Spinning it with liquid CO2 until the meat separates from the fat? What on Earth is “icky” about that?

    From the centrifuge patent application:

    In the process of boning a carcass, the external fat layer is removed. During this process, a significant amount of lean meat can be cut from the carcass and discarded with the fat. This process leads to a significant loss of lean meat. To recover the lean meat, the discarded fat was heated and processed in a centrifuge to separate the fat from the lean meat. The lean meat was then frozen and chipped into small flakes. The finished product, known as Lean Finely Textured Beef (hereinafter “LFTB”) could later be added to ground beef, for example. The temperature of the LFTB during the separation process is not high enough and long enough to kill bacteria. As a result, pathogens and bacteria that are present on the surfaces of the carcass prior to boning can result in bacteria being present in the LFTB.

    I’m not seeing how this stuff is any dirtier than spinach.

  109. 109
    trollhattan says:

    Sweet braised Ronny Reagan on a bed of beet greens, what’s the point of defending this shit (“because it’s saaaafe and it’s not going to kill you and anyway, you eat worse things all the time”)?

    If the food industry wants to continue legally making and selling this crap, I have the right to know what contains it and make an informed decision to avoid it. My family and I choose to not experiment with eating it.

    End of story.

    It reminds me of the old way of building cars–they’d bang the doors and fenders into alignment at the end of the production line, today they assemble them to tolerences all along the line. This goo, they’re basically admitting is contaminated waste that can be made safe at the end of the assembly line and repurposed as human food. The ammonia is the sledgehammer and prybar.

    Screw that.

  110. 110

    […] Do you sometimes feel like livestock? Posted on March 10, 2012 by thecrosspollinator Whole post here: […]

  111. 111
    Brachiator says:


    I did not say people should be limited. I stated my preference and hope that it will become more common.

    Fair enough.

    Of course things have been traded over distance forever. Neanderthals had seashell ornaments when they were not near the sea. But not typically meat.

    There is some recent evidence suggesting that Neanderthals may have been sailors; so who knows what those scamps may have been up to.

    I’m sure that food history buffs could provide a ton of info, but I know that herring, for example, especially fermented and cured has been a heavily traded foodstuff since 3,000 BC. I’m sure that other fish and meat have also been traded over long distances.

  112. 112
    HT says:

    @trollhattan: Soybean processing involves solvent extraction with hexane to remove the oils. Hexane is a hydrocarbon typically sourced from petroleum. Does this make anything with soy “disgusting”?

  113. 113
    Mnemosyne says:


    But I just think it’s silly for people to be so hysterical about this, calling it “slime” when people here eat so much bologna, hotdogs and sausages.

    Again, though, people expect their sausages and hotdogs to be amalgam foods. In contrast, they expect their ground beef to be ground down from a chunk of beef, not to have additional scraps extracted from leftover fat, reconstituted into chunks, disinfected, and mixed in.

    If you want to argue that people should expect ground beef to be made up of scraps, that’s fine, but that’s not what the industry has been selling it as being. People are grossed out because they’re finding out there are things in their ground beef that they didn’t know were there.

    I’m not sure why this is so hard. If you are served a chicken breast, do you expect it to be a chicken breast, or do you expect it to be a chunk of amalgamated chicken parts formed into a breast-like shape? And if you were expecting a breast and get an almagamated chunk, do you expect to be able to complain because it’s not what it was advertised as being, or should you just shut up because, hey, it all came from a chicken at some point?

  114. 114
    trollhattan says:


    Comparison fail.

    They’re taking admittedly contaminated slaughterhouse byproducts, decontaminating and industrially processing it then literally sneaking the resulting slurry into ground meat (and who knows what else). They sell us ground meat and who knows what without specifically telling us it includs this stuff.

    Do we have to fight this battle all over again? They’re doing this on the sly because they know full well a large percentage of shoppers/diners would take a pass.

    Suggesting we don’t need to know, or that if we took a chill pill we’d decide “hey, that’s okay after all” is treating us like preschoolers.

  115. 115
    Ruckus says:

    @The Dangerman:
    It’s way, way too late for that.

  116. 116
    JoyfulA says:

    In the Harrisburg, PA, area, Karns stores (small supermarkets heavy on meat, produce, and baked goods) grind beef in front of you, and it’s no more expensive than supermarkets.

    The mixture of meat from thousands of carcasses allows one contaminated cow to affect all the hamburger or ground sirloin, but meat ground on demand limits the number of cows involved to one or a few.

  117. 117
    kerFuFFler says:


    I’m not sure why this is so hard.

    Perhaps because you seem bent on misinterpreting me. After all, I did say:

    Oh absolutely. I am all for thorough labeling and consumer protections and I think it’s good to reduce the amount of antibiotics in our industrialized food production system.

    I do think the labeling issue is a big problem. I already agreed with you in part. But I don’t think this additive is necessarily as gross as people are making it out to be. Calling it slime is problematic.

  118. 118
    Keith G says:

    Speaking of pink slime, at this very moment I am cooking pork chorizo. Salivary glands and lymph nodes are tasty. Really.

  119. 119
    muddy says:

    @Brachiator: I think it is stretching to say that the ammonia/meat scraps in a world of refrigeration vs. salted fish in a world without are on the same level. I guess there’s a portion of “necessary” missing there for me.

    Salted fish has certainly stood the test of time, I just had sardines and avocado on toast. I call it “oil sandwich”, so no one will want to share it.

  120. 120
    Mart says:

    I visit a pet food supplement producer. A couple years back some pets were killed by a cheap Chinese supplement in pet food. They have had to totally reconfigure their operations and lab QC their suppliers products. They are working on a new plant layout to assure minimal chance of contamination in the production lines. America, fuck with our pets and we will make sure they are not harmed again. Fuck with us, and we may regulate in a generation or three.

  121. 121
    muddy says:

    @Keith G: I came up eating scrapple. That’s a name that doesn’t need a detailed explanation.

  122. 122
    HT says:

    @trollhattan: It’s a mechanical separation technique that differs only in complexity to the act of cutting the fat off with a knife. Given all the tools of modern scientific research, you would be hard pressed to differentiate the “pink slime” from the rest of the ground beef. It is all beef.

    The more concerning problem is your exaggeration of what “contaminated” means. If you touch surgical instruments before scrubbing up, they are contaminated. If meat comes in contact with any surface that potentially could have bacteria or pathogens on it, it is contaminated. This stuff isn’t filthy. It’s a precaution, like washing your fruit.

  123. 123
    asiangrrlMN says:

    I’m glad that I don’t eat beef. ::shudder::

  124. 124
    Yutsano says:

    @asiangrrlMN: It’s funny, I made the observation the other day that I have just about every major protein but adult cow in my house. I do haz baby cow though. Yum.

  125. 125
    muddy says:

    @HT: Hence the periodical recalls.

  126. 126
    Adam says:

    This story kind of enrages me actually. Considering the environmental cost of raising and farming one cow, we should damn well be getting every last bit of meat off the carcass. And the ammonia treatment is safe and effective. There are plenty of good reasons to not eat ground beef, or fast food, but this isn’t one of them.

  127. 127
    El Cruzado says:

    @Elie: Speaking as someone who used to live there: go direct to the source. Farmer’s markets, or once you get West of Leesburg, you can find places that sell locally produced stuff.

  128. 128
    mclaren says:


    The Krill? Wasn’t that the alien population in the movie, ‘Forbidden Planet” ?

    No, that was the Krell.

    But now they make audio amplifiers.


  129. 129
    Elie says:


    That is fair, Adam. Somehow we need more information/education about what is truly getting the most out of every scrap, and the difference with garbage that puts our children and others at risk. Surely, without judging, you can see the need for that, right?And it isn’t always clear what is what…

    There are bound to means and ends — to a world that is finite and stressed, but still filled with ways gifts….

  130. 130
    Joel says:

    @Nerull: You’ve heard of red tide, right?

  131. 131
    Joel says:

    @HT: You understand the principle of centrifugal separation, I’m assuming. You might also want to know that carbon dioxide is only liquid at pressures >5 atmospheres and that’s only at temperatures >100 degrees (celsius) below zero. In other words, nothing that you would recognize as normal. This is why frozen carbon dioxide is called “dry ice”. It sublimates.

  132. 132
    BH in MA says:

    My objection to this stuff is not that the idea of it grosses me out. The problem is the fundamental dishonesty used to get to the point where BPI could sell this stuff. I first heard of pink slime a couple of years ago and the story went like this:

    BPI asked for a waiver from the USDA regarding this process saying that, according to THEIR testing, it was safe and killed everything so there was no need for the process to go through the normal, time consuming safety testing. The USDA issued the waiver. Approval in hand, BPI began selling this stuff to prisons. Initially, the stuff stank so bad the employees/prisoners refused to work with it, presuming that there was something wrong with it. BPI then CHANGED THE PROCESS to use less ammonia. I don’t know if it’s still the case, but at the time I read my first articles about this, BPI was selling pink slime that had been created using a DIFFERENT process than the one they had received the waiver for. And since less ammonia was used, testing indicated that there were, in fact, pathogens in the meat. The other bit of dishonesty comes from the fact that BPI convinced the USDA to agree that the ammonia is part of the manufacturing process and not an ingredient, so they don’t have to label the meat “contains ammonia.” Enough ammonia in the meat that you can smell it but they don’t have to tell us they put it in there.

  133. 133
    TenguPhule says:

    Sausage in a bun anyone?

  134. 134

    […] And now, suffer the children for the profits of their Betters. Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice quotes the LA Times: The USDA, however, says the additive is safe to eat. The department is so […]

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  2. […] Do you sometimes feel like livestock? Posted on March 10, 2012 by thecrosspollinator Whole post here: […]

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