The End of Pink Slime?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Are the days of pink slime numbered? Beef Products, Inc. is suspending operations at three of its four plants where lean, finely textured beef--or pink slime--is produced. Famously derided by Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver last year, we learned that pink slime is a filler made from mechanically separated beef, which includes the last otherwise inaccessible shreds of meat together with connective tissue, cartilage and other undesirable parts of a stripped carcass, and treated with ammonium hydroxide gas.

Food labels were not required to declare it, even though it was present in up to 70 percent of ground beef; and parents were horrified to learn that U.S. Department of Agriculture had purchased seven million tons of it to be used in school lunches. An online petition was mounted to remove pink slime from school lunches, gathering more than 250,000 signatures. In response, the USDA said that school districts could choose between beef with the filler or without.

Fast food restaurants and many big-name grocery stores such as Safeway and Kroger declared they would no longer sell beef containing pink slime. Meanwhile the American Meat Institute maintained that the product was "absolutely edible," and that the process of mechanically separating beef was similar to that of separating cream from milk.

Consumers, it seems, were not reassured.

Ground Beef Packages Photo by Rob Melnychuk/Getty Images

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