What the Heck is Pink Slime?

And is it being fed to our students?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Show/Hide Gallery

By Lisa Browdy

Health Blogger

When cattle is butchered, the fancy parts (like sirloin) can go for big bucks, but the fatty scraps that are left over are nearly worthless. Those "bits no one wants," according to chef and food activist Jamie Oliver (see video) used to be sold for dog food. According to USA Today, "pink slime" can contain cow intestines, connective tissue, and other parts that are usually referred to as beef by-products.

With advances in food technology, some meat processors have used centrifugal force to spin the fat away from the lean, and treated the lot with ammonium hydroxide to remove deadly E.Coli, salmonella, and other pathogens. Why do the beef packers go to all this trouble? Because it enables them to sell their product at a greater profit, of course.

After it is ground, the treated by-products are indistinguishable from "regular" ground beef. Food activists call it "pink slime," but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) calls it safe for human consumption. ABC News says that up to 70 percent of ground beef found in supermarkets and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) contains some of it.

So is this being fed to our kids in Districts 97 and 200? According to Micheline Piekarski, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for both districts, the answer is no.

The major processor using the "pink slime" is Beef Products International, and our school districts use beef from a different vendor, JTM Food Group. According to a letter from Dave Hackman of JTM, no supplier participating in the NSLP uses ammonia in its beef products.

Since it has been used since the 1990s, I can't imagine that this by-product is any more or less safe than "regular" ground beef (which, frankly, isn't all that good for you or the environment). But many activists want it out of our food system, or at least have it labeled as such. Since the USDA considers the ammonia a processing agent and not an ingredient, it has never been listed.

If you like ground beef and want to avoid having ammonia-treated by-products in your burger, the best course of action is to purchase a hunk of meat and ask the butcher to grind it for you. Most supermarkets will do this, though of course it takes more time. Another option is to purchase your meat at the farmer's market, where you can ask the vendor about how the animal was raised, slaughtered and processed.

Humanely raised meat might cost more, but if you spend a little more on meat and eat a lot less of it, it will benefit your health and your wallet!

Email: healthwithinsight@gmail.com Twitter: LisaBrowdy

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and OakPark.com. We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

1 Comment - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 11th, 2012 1:32 PM

Lisa, you wrote, "I can't imagine that this by-product is any more or less safe than 'regular' ground beef," and I certainly agree with you. I mean, most ground beef probably doesn't contain ammonia, but if one is sqeamish about eating offal, then it'd be best to swear off a lot of ground meat and most sausage.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad