From the Lunch Lady Chronicles: Hey, Kids, It’s Time for Pink Slime!

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Have you heard about “pink slime” lately? Do you know what it is? You should. According to a number of news reports, pink slime is a “filler” that can be found in approximately 70% of hamburger meat that is sold in supermarkets.

Pink slime is produced by grinding together low-grade trimmings like connective tissue, cow intestines, and beef scraps that would normally be destined for dog food and rendering. (Such trimmings are said to come from the parts of the cow that are highly exposed to fecal matter.) The ground concoction is then simmered in low heat in a centrifuge in order to separate fat and tissue and treated with ammonia-hydroxide to kill pathogens, including salmonella and E. Coli. “The resulting pinkish substance is later blended into traditional ground beef and hamburger patties.” The United States Department of Agriculture says it’s safe to eat.

Kit Foshee, who was once a corporate quality manager at BPI–a company that manufactures pink slime–said of the substance, “It kind of looks like Play-Doh. It’s pink and frozen. It’s not what the typical person would consider meat.” Foshee claims that he was fired by BPI after he had complained “about the process used to make the filler, and the company’s claims about it.”

Because the FDA considers ammonia to be a processing agent, it’s not required to be listed as an ingredient on food labels.

Pink Slime – What is REALLY in your Hamburger –

‘Pink Slime’ Outrage: Beef Industry Responds

Pink Slime in School Lunches

The Daily reported that 7,000,000 pounds of this “beef” product “have been scheduled as part of school lunch programs” in this country. In fact, nearly 7% of the ground beef used in school lunches will have been treated with ammonium-hydroxide.

Two microbiologists who formerly worked for the Food Safety Inspection Service think the continued purchase of pink slime for school lunches “makes no sense.” Gerald Zirnstein, one of the microbiologists, told The Daily that he wouldn’t want his son, who is now two-years-old, eating it when he starts going to school. Zirnstein coined the term “pink slime” after he toured a BPI facility in 2002 when he was conducting “an investigation into salmonella contamination in packaged ground beef.”

Retired microbiologist Carl Custer said that the treated beef trimmings were originally called  “soylent pink.” He added, “We looked at the product and we objected to it because it used connective tissues instead of muscle. It was simply not nutritionally equivalent [to ground beef]. My main objection was that it was not meat.”

Note: US schools, agricultural and health authorities don’t call beef trimmings treated with ammonium-hydroxide “pink slime.” They call it “lean fine textured beef.”

Dr. John Torres said that “ammonia does not cause a major health risk to our bodies.” He said he was “more concerned about the possible E. coli and salmonella that could still exist in the beef by-products, even after the chemical treatment.” Torres added that these chemically-treated by-products don’t contain the same amount of nutrients as pure-ground beef. He continued, “It’s one of those things, “Do I want my child to have this? On a short-term, moderate basis: maybe. On a long-term basis: no.”

Note: In January, three fast-food chains—McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King–decided to stop using “pink slime” in their products after pressure from Jamie Oliver, a celebrity chef.

‘Pink Slime’ eliminated from fast food, going to school lunches

Where Your Beef Burger Comes From


Partners in ‘slime’: Feds keep buying ammonia-treated ground beef for school lunches (The Daily)

Seven Million Pounds of “Pink Slime” Beef Destined for National School Lunch Program (Yahoo)

The “Pink Slime” in Your Kid’s School Lunch (Mother Jones)

Supermarket Slime, James Cameron Dives Deep, Spring Springs Forward (On Earth)

Pink Slime Found In 70% Of Supermarket Ground Beef In ABC Investigation (Huffington Post)

Pink Slime Criticism Is Overblown, Say Some Food Safety Advocates (Huffington Post)

Where You Can Get ‘Pink-Slime’-Free Beef (ABC News)

70 Percent of Ground Beef at Supermarkets Contains ‘Pink Slime’ (ABC News)

Pink Slime – Good Enough For School Meals, Not McDonald’s (Medical News Today)

‘Pink slime’ beef additive is used in CISD school lunches (Your Houston News)

‘Pink slime’ eliminated from fast food, but not school lunches (USA Today)

35 thoughts on “From the Lunch Lady Chronicles: Hey, Kids, It’s Time for Pink Slime!

  1. And to think the people who push this stuff on us would turn up their collective noses at Haggis made the traditional Scottish way.


  2. Holy cow! Pun intended. Great article Elaine. I saw this news item but I didn’t have a clue how scary it was. I may have to reconsider my summer burgers! I do use Turkey burgers most of the time. I wonder if they use a pink slime in Turkey burgers also?

  3. raff, don’t count anything out. Have you seen the pink slime stuff the fast food places use to make chicken “nuggets”? You do not want to know what part(s) of the chicken nuggets come from.

  4. Otteray,

    I don’t know which sounds more unappetizing–Haggis or pink slime. Could it be that Haggis was a precursor of pink slime?



    I only buy ground beef and pork from a small local market that grinds the meat on its premises.

  5. Um.. gee… thanks, Elaine. 😉

    In the “ignorance is bliss” vein, I’ve tried to ignore these “pink slime” stories, but I’ve stopped eating ground meat in restaurants. Thankfully, there are some organic farmers in the area with “grind as you watch” operations.)

    Michael Pollan: The Omnivore’s Dilemma

  6. That’s why I prefer steak to another meat product….. If raised right…. I am a vegetarian by proxy…..


    I heard the full story on apm and was as grossed out then as I am now……I think OS has it right…..

  7. AY,

    Grass-fed beef is the best–if you can get it.

    My husband and I were on a waiting list to join the Community Supported Agriculture at Appleton Farms in Massachusetts for a number of years. This year we finally got to buy shares.

    Appleton farms is a beautiful place.

    “Appleton Farms in Hamilton and Ipswich is one of the oldest continuously operating farms in the United States. Established in 1638 by a land grant to Samuel Appleton, it is the oldest working farm in Massachusetts, and at 1,000 acres, one of the largest. Perhaps more importantly, the farm preserves a bucolic, pastoral landscape, agricultural traditions, and historic farm buildings that are rapidly disappearing in the eastern part of the state.”

  8. Years ago I read an industry article about a professor who was being given a big award from the chicken industry. He has perfected a process that bleached dark meat so that it would be ‘white meat chicken’. This required a great deal of rinsing obviously & what was left was a white, tasteless sludge. The prof was asked about the lack of flavor & replied thats just a side benefit that the fast food people wanted, the flavorless palate allowed them to flavor it any way they wanted.

    If you are eating fast food or highly processed crap you are eating sludge like this & worse.

  9. Thank you Elaine…. I agree grass free range is the best…. You all also have some of the best domestic merlots in the country as well….. All organic…. Had thought about doing a mailing with them a few years back…

  10. But… But…. Frankly…. It taste just like chicken….. Just like the grill marks painted on the hamburger…. They must be good for you…..

  11. If we want adults to be healthy and eat real food – then we have to feed them real food as children. No pink slime, no pizza as a vegetable etc. The schools need to feed real food and veggies and the USDA needs to spend more time inspecting food processing plants, ranches and farms and less time providing business loans to puppy mills and related businesses.

  12. Elaine,
    Quite disturbing in that I buy my “94% lean” chopped meat from my local wholesale club. Perhaps this is why the beef is so “lean”. Worth more research on my part.

  13. Sorry to disappoint you grass fed beef eaters—–not to contradict Elaine M.
    My info is general. As long as RoundupReady alfalfa is the primary source of “grass” then the beef is questionable for several reasons that won’t go into now. This applies at least to Argentine beef, and possibly Brasilian too.
    Let’s just say for the moment that the alfalfa causes almost 100% miscarriages in heifers birthing for the first time, RR chelates the minerals making them unavailable to the plants, and disturbs the microfauna pop so the growth of toxin producing microfauna is encouraged.

    As for beef slime, my store in the country does their own grinding from plastic bags full on meat bit trimmings. No slime in sight.
    Will check my town store. They are responsive to customer concerns.

    Thanks Elaine. Shall we baptize you as the Jamie Oliver of the week.
    Glad am treating myself to my weekly filet (don’t know what you call it) comme filet mignon, n’est ce pas.

  14. PS I don’t know about local coops etc. for ex Elaines.
    But my facts are taken from info that is collected by the FDA from routine FDA (for ex breeders) data, and the letter written to the DoAg sec’y to not take away guard zones from RR alfalfa crops until the matter was more fully investigated. There is a group within the FDA responsible for studying this type of problem with microfauna, etc. and RR gene modification. The chairman has over 25 years experience studying glycofosat, the main ingredient in RR treatment.
    Links are available if desired.

    It caused a brief stir when one of his collegues leaked the letter to the press, and the EU parliament called him to testify.
    And then it gets buried. Like how pink slime to feed our kids will be also.
    Feel hopeful anybody. Lead the charge Mike S and Elaine.

  15. Did anybody mention sausage, prepared mean dishes, etc.
    I remember the mini-shrimp in the Venice fish market. They were so fresh they were still jumping around. And they do eat microfauna, not farmed yet.

  16. idealist,

    You might want to read about the process that cattle have to go through as ruminants in order for their digestive systems to adapt to eating corn. I first learned about it in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

    Here’s an interview with Michael Pollan, the book’s author, on the subject:

    So most people think of a cow as something that’s out grazing, and then is taken to the slaughterhouse.

    … No, not true. Cows see very little grass nowadays in their lives. They get them on corn as fast as they can, which speeds up their lifespan, gets them really fat, and allows you to slaughter them within 14 months.

    The problem with this system, or one of the problems with this system, is that cows are not evolved to digest corn. It creates all sorts of problems for them. The rumen is designed for grass. And corn is just too rich, too starchy. So as soon as you introduce corn, the animal is liable to get sick.

    It creates a whole [host] of changes to the animal. So you have to essentially teach them how to eat corn. You teach their bodies to adjust. And this is done in something called the backgrounding pen at the ranch, which is kind of the prep school for the feedlot. Here’s where you teach them how to eat corn.

    You start giving them antibiotics, because as soon as you give them corn, you’ve disturbed their digestion, and they’re apt to get sick, so you then have to give them drugs. That’s how you get in this whole cycle of drugs and meat. By feeding them what they’re not equipped to eat well, we then go down this path of technological fixes, and the first is the antibiotics. Once they start eating the [corn], they’re more vulnerable. They’re stressed, so they’re more vulnerable to all the different diseases cows get. But specifically they get bloat, which is just a horrible thing to happen. They stop ruminating.

    You have the image of a cow on grass of the cow ruminating, which is chewing its cud and burping a lot. In fact, a lot of greenhouse gases come out of the stock as methane emerges from their mouth as they eructate — it’s a technical term. And they bring down saliva in this process, and it keeps their stomach very base rather than acid.

    So you put in the corn, and this layer of slime forms over the rumen. You’ve got to picture the rumen. It’s a 45-gallon fermentation tank. It’s essentially fermenting the grass. Suddenly your slime forms and the gas can’t escape, and the rumen just expands like a balloon. It’s pressing against the lungs and the heart, and if nothing is done, the animal suffocates.

    So what is done is, if you catch it in time, you stick a hose down the esophagus and you release the gas and maybe give the animal some hay or grass, and it’s a lot healthier. But it’s one of the things that happens to cows on corn. …

    Not all cows get bloat. They’re prone to bloat. It’s a serious problem on feedlots. They also get acidosis, which is an acidifying of the rumen. … And when the animals get acid stomach, it’s a really bad case of heartburn, and they go off their feed. Eventually, if you give them too much corn too quickly, it ulcerates the rumen; bacteria escape from the rumen into the blood stream, and end up in the liver, creating liver abscesses.

    What do we do about that? Another antibiotic. … Most cows on feedlots eating this rich diet of corn are prone to having their livers damaged. So to prevent that, or limit the incidence of liver disease, we have to give them another antibiotic.

  17. Elaine,
    While we’re trading war stories. Over 30 percent of the mental sanatoria cases in the south in the mid-20s were do to eating a diet mainly of hominy grits. These grits were so poor in vitamin B family that with a diet of white bread of unenriched wheat flour this resulted in mental dysfunction.
    They were not alone, the Po valley in Italy was similarly afflicted.
    PS Aren’t the cows fed soy beans also? For the protein content?

  18. I wonder if kosher or organic ground meat uses these tactics. I know that many kosher places grind their own meat because it is cheaper in the long run for them. I have seen how it is done. You take strips of chuck meat and put it in a meat grinder. Ta da! Fresh ground meat. Though I stay away from red meat because of the high cholesterol.

  19. Down here on the pea farm we only eat vegetables grown by local farmers. Our fare in our congregation is basically peas and porridge. We started a political party based on the glory of peas. The Pamlico County Pea Party is meeting this week if y’all wish to attend. Our platform is basic and simple–vegetarians for equality and liberty–all people invited.

  20. Most farmers markets in Texas sell grass fed beef and you can buy it at some grocery stores and coops. I don’t eat much beef but am not interested in eating corporately farmed unsustainable meat or chicken. There is a BBQ place in Austin that uses only organic grass fed beef and the line forms at 9 am for lunch.

  21. ‘Pink Slime’ Whistleblower Kit Foshee Interviewed on Network TV

    by Sarah Damian on March 09, 2012

    “The Daily, which did a follow-up story today focusing on Foshee’s whistleblowing, highlights the overall concern of ammoniated beef.

    “BPI is marketing themselves as a pinnacle of safety,” Foshee said. “It’s all lies. It’s all marketing.”

  22. 70 Percent of Ground Beef at Supermarkets Contains ‘Pink Slime’

    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.

    According to Custer, the product is not really beef, but “a salvage product … fat that had been heated at a low temperature and the excess fat spun out.”

    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 “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,’” Custer 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 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.

  23. ‘Pink Slime’ Will Be a Choice for Schools
    By Ben Forer | ABC News–abc-news.html

    ABC News has the learned that on Thursday the U.S. Department of Agriculture will announce that starting this fall, schools will be able to choose whether or not they buy hamburger that contains lean finely textured beef known as ” pink slime.”

    The announcement comes one week after ABC News reported on the beef filler commonly known as “pink slime,” which is found in 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets.

  24. ‘Pink Slime’ Losing Place on School Lunch Menus

    BOSTON — Andy Gomez, a ninth grader at Brighton High School, was not sure why hamburgers and meatballs had disappeared from the cafeteria, but he was not happy about it. “Today I just ate peanut butter and jelly,” he said. “I don’t like the chicken patty.”

    The absence of ground beef at lunch last week — at Brighton High and 43 other public schools here — could be explained by a peek into the freezer, where 21 boxes of ground beef products sat, cordoned off from the rest of the meat by a clinical-looking cover of white paper reading “Do not use.”

    This is the frozen mass at the center of growing public concern, stoked by news coverage and social media outrage, over so-called pink slime, the low-cost blend of ammonia-treated bits of cow. It turns out that it constitutes some of the ground beef distributed by the United States Department of Agriculture through its school lunch program, and that it can be found in at least some grocery store beef, though chains including Kroger, Safeway and Stop & Shop have said they will not sell beef that contains it.

    This year, McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants also said they would stop using the substance, a filler formally known as lean finely textured beef, in their meat products. And on March 15, as an outcry resulted in hundreds of thousands of people signing online petitions, the Agriculture Department announced that next year it would offer schools a ground beef option that does not contain pink slime. Many school districts said they were planning to sign on.

    The Miami-Dade school district, one of the nation’s largest, has already said it would opt for pink-slime-free beef, even though it expected it to cost more (exactly how much remained uncertain). State officials in South Carolina said they would procure only the pink-slime-free ground beef once it became available.

    But for some school districts — with administrators fielding phone calls from concerned parents and fretting about past food scares — next fall is not soon enough. The Boston school district, among others, has taken the step of purging all ground beef from its menus. Other districts, like the New York City schools, have begun phasing out ground beef containing the additive from their lunchrooms.

    Michael Peck, the director of food and nutrition services for the Boston schools, said the district had decided to hold and isolate its entire inventory of ground beef, leaving over 70,000 pounds of beef — worth about $500,000, Mr. Peck estimated — confined to a warehouse until the district knows more about what is in it.

    “It’s another example of the alteration of our food supply,” said Mr. Peck, who is concerned about the use of ammonia hydroxide gas to kill bacteria in the product. “Have we created another unknown safety risk?”

  25. This stuff has been going to Mcd Burger King you name it for years. Is anybody going to appoligize to the workers, truck drivers, and other many thousands of people that just lost there jobs? Pathetic.

  26. ‘Pink Slime’ Beef Manufacturer Suspends Production At 3 Of 4 Plants Amid Outcry
    By BETSY BLANEY 03/26/12

    LUBBOCK, Texas — The maker of “pink slime” suspended operations Monday at all but one plant where the beef ingredient is made, acknowledging recent public uproar over the product has cost the company business.

    Craig Letch, director of food quality and assurance for Beef Products Inc., declined to discuss financial details, but said business has taken a “substantial” hit since social media exploded with worry over the ammonia-treated filler and an online petition seeking its ouster from schools drew hundreds of thousands of supporters. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided school districts may stop using it and some retail chains have pulled products containing it from their shelves.

    Federal regulators say the product, which has been used for years and is known in the industry as “lean, finely textured beef,” meets food safety standards. But critics call the product an unappetizing example of industrialized food production.

  27. Wow. I think what is wrong with this world is ignorant trouble makers who resort to childish name calling about ground beef. Don’t you people have jobs that you need to go to instead of spreading roomers. I hope you know that ammonium hydroxide is treating most foods such as ground beef, cheese, shelf goods, and any other product that is mass produced to the public to PROTECT THEM FROM GETTING, not to hurt them! Secondly, lean finely textured ground beef has been produced for over 25 years. All of you have grown up on this product which is made from the trimmings off steaks and takes the extra meat off the bone. It is then ground up to make your meat leaner so you do not end up eating tons of fat. I hope you know what your doing will cost thousands of people their jobs and send the price of beef skyrocketing. Soon you’ll wish you didn’t post so many lies when you can no longer afford to feed your family and your tax dollars are going towards paying for the state benefits of everyone who is out of a job because of your words. Also, I hope you start posting links from the “reputable” websites your getting this information off of.


    I-Team: Inside look at another type of meat glue

    SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — The I-Team has uncovered more on the growing controversy over meat glue. It’s a product that binds bits and pieces of meat together to look like whole steaks. Now, the ABC7 I-Team looks at how one Midwestern company is helping processors re-make vats of meat they call unsellable into steaks for restaurant tables.

    This is one reality in the meat industry.

    Corporate video: “The concepts of innovation, efficiency and yield really come into their own in Fibrimex.”

    Related Content
    Story: Meat industry reacts to ‘meat glue’ investigation
    Story: Full responses to I-Team ‘meat glue’ investigation
    More: Full responses to I-Team ‘meat glue’ investigation
    Story: Reaction sizzles over use of meat glue
    Story: The I-Team investigates meat glue
    The video was produced in 1995 to market Fibrimex to meat processors.The ABC7 I-Team found it on YouTube. It shows how small pieces of meat tumbling through a production line are turned into whole filets.

    Fibrimex is made from proteins isolated and extracted from cow blood, then purified. In simple terms, it’s a coagulent — the same thing found in your body that heals a wound, but in this case it’s used to “heal” pieces of meat that would be discarded, back together.

    Corporate video: “Fibrimex makes it possible to produce a mixture of different meat products or even combinations with fish. What’s more, the use of Fibrimex means a significant reduction in unsaleable parts,” states the corporate video.

    Those “unsaleable parts” are often the tougher meat left over after processors cut the best part out of a beef tenderloin. What’s left could be made into hamburger, stew meat or just be thrown out.

    The Nebraska-based company that makes Fibrimex and their Dutch business partners defend the practice. They say repurposing all that trim reduces waste. The company’s owner recently talked to journalists by phone.

    Owner Christian Penning: “What these people are getting is the same filet mignon meat as they would have otherwise gotten. It’s just produced in a different way but it’s the same cut of muscle meat.”

    Penning also told reporters where steaks made with Fibrimex are sold.

    Penning: “Our product is mostly applied in meat processing operations and then provided to retailers, as well as restaurant chains and as well as smaller restaurants.”

    That is where things get complicated. The federal government says meat treated with meat glue is safe to eat but it has to be labeled. That doesn’t apply to restaurants, so you wouldn’t know you’re eating it, and that could pose a health risk if you eat it rare.

    On a normal steak, the inside is sterile so it doesn’t have to be thoroughly cooked.

    But on a glued steak, the center may be contaminated with bacteria that gets in during processing, so it must be cooked through to be safe.

    Amanda Hitt, director of the Food Integrity Program: “That isn’t OK to say that it’s just safe. It has to be something that we wanted in the first place, not something that was put upon us that we have to deal with.”

    The Food Integrity Program is a non-profit in Washington that provides legal help to industry whistleblowers. They exposed how pink slime makes its way into hamburger. Now they’re telling consumers to say no to meat glue.

    Hitt: “There is an incredible amount of power in knowing and there is an incredible amount of power in asking and then there is an incredible amount of power in telling them that you are not interested in eating these products.”

    Steve McCarthy is banking on a backlash against mass-produced meat. He’s part owner of Prather Ranch Meat Company in the San Francisco Ferry Building. His business model is to raise and process small numbers of animals humanely with no additives like meat glue.

    McCarthy: “A lot of meat that’s raised conventionally is cheap. It’s artificially cheap.”

    The meat at Prather costs more but McCarthy says the business is thriving and that customers are willing to pay for peace of mind.

    McCarthy: “If you’re concerned about where your food is coming from, meat in particular, if you spend more money, a little bit more money, on a higher quality product, possibly less often, you can change the quality of food that’s on your table for your family.”

    The ABC7 I-Team contacted over a dozen chain restaurants in California to determine who uses meat glue. It’s no surprise that many restaurants did not respond, but a few are distancing themselves from the product, including: Sizzler, Outback Steakhouse, Applebee’s, Chili’s and BJ’s restaurants. All say they don’t use any form of meat glue.

    end of article

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