Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Food for Thought: Pink Slime in your Burger--UPDATE

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Pink Slime
(c) Associate Press

All of my regular readers know how much I love a really good burger. This whole blog started over a debate as to what were the best burgers in Houston. I recently made a list of my top Houston Burgers on the sidebar after a suggestion from a colleague at work. While I love all kinds of food and will ramble on about the elegance of Montreal smoked meat, extol the virtues of proper sushi and go gaga over smoked Brussels sprouts at Uchi, the Venerable Hamburger is a great love of mine, as well as that of many Americans, Canadians and others. 
However, our favourite sandwich has been the subject of much controversy due to an ingredient used as a filler that has turned my stomach and those of many other burger lovers.  In fact, much has been on the news about Pink Ammonia Slime.  Not since Marvin Zindler began referring to "Slime in the Ice Machine" has such a word made me feel so nauseous.  

What is Pink Ammonia Slime?

The controversy centers on "lean finely textured beef," a low-cost ingredient in ground beef made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. The bits are heated to about 100 F and spun to remove most of the fat. The lean mix then is compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product, made by South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc., also is exposed to "a puff of ammonium hydroxide gas" to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella.  It has been used as a major ingredient in DOG FOOD (Meat AND Meat byproducts, not just for Alpo, eh?)

There are no precise numbers on how prevalent the product is, and it does not have to be labeled as an ingredient. Past estimates have ranged as high as 70 percent; one industry officials estimates it is in at least half of the ground meat and burgers in the United States. It has been on the market for years, and federal regulators say it meets standards for food safety. But advocates for wholesome food have denounced the process as a potentially unsafe and unappetizing example of industrialized food production.

Jamie Oliver is one of the loudest critics of it and he showed the problem with it on TV about a year ago:

More recently in Houston, several local TV stations jumped on the story, as has the world-wide news media.  Here are many links and information culled from such sources:

1.  Kroger revealed it does allow Pink Slime in its Ground Beef.  I'm not shopping at Kroger for meat anymore then.  HEB and Whole Foods DO NOT USE IT and I will buy ground beef from them.  Randall's, which is owned by Safeway, is investigating the matter and hasn't said anything one way or the other.

UPDATE: Per KHOU-11 in Houston, Kroger is getting rid of Pink Ammonia Slime due to customer complaints.  

2.  McDonald's recently dropped the additive.  I haven't eaten there for years and since they were using it, I won't be eating burgers there again either. Other fast-food companies such as Burger King and Taco Bell have stopped using ‘pink slime’ in their food. But apparently the government believes the stuff is just fine to serve to millions of American school children and the USDA is buying it for School Lunch Programs.

It looks like all of us that were suspicious of our school lunches WERE RIGHT!!!

3. Additionally, here is more from ABC News:
(c) Safeway Co. 
ABC News emailed the top 10 grocery chains in America and seven responded:


“We rely on the federal government to help guide us on food safety issues. USDA has been clear in its judgment that Lean Finely Textured Ground Beef is a safe source of nutrition. However, we are reviewing the matter at this time.”  FYI: Safeway owns and operates Randall's and Tom Thumb supermarkets in Texas.
 UPDATE: Per KHOU-11 in Houston, Safeway is getting rid of pink slime in their ground beef.  

Ahold (Stop & Shop/Giant)

“Stores operated by the divisions of Ahold USA do carry ground beef made with Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT), also called Finely Textured Beef (FTB). Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT) is beef and is absolutely safe for consumption. To make the product, beef companies use beef trimmings, which are the small cuts of beef that remain when larger cuts are trimmed down. These trimmings are USDA-inspected, wholesome cuts of beef. This process has been an industry standard for almost 20 years. Alternatives to the conventional ground beef supply, in the form of Certified Angus Beef and Nature’s Promise ground beef products, are available to customers in stores across all of the divisions of Ahold USA. These products do not include the use of BLBT. Customers are being encouraged to ask any meat associate should they have any questions or would like to be directed to meat that does not include Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings. Our labeling is in compliance with USDA regulations. BLBT is USDA tested and approved ground beef and therefore does not require labeling.”

(c) Costco Inc.

Does not use pink slime.

“Anything that we sell at Costco we want to explain it’s origins, and I personally don’t know how to explain trim treated with ammonia in our ground beef,” Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance for Costco, told ABC News. “I just don’t know how to explain that. I’m not that smart.”


“We have never allowed the use of LFTB (pink slime) in our meat. It’s 100 percent ground beef with no LFTB.”


(c) H. E. Butt Co. 
“All our ground beef sold at H-E-B is 100% pure with no additives.”

Whole Foods

Does not use pink slime.


“We do not use finely textured beef in our fresh ground beef. … We are routinely presented the finely textured beef as an option, but have always refused.”  KROGER HAS SINCE ADMITTED HAVING IT IN SOME OF THEIR PRODUCT.  SEE ORIGINAL POST ABOVE.  

In addition to Whole Foods, Tops Markets told ABC News it does not use “pink slime.”

USDA Organic 

If your meat is stamped USDA Organic, it’s pure meat with no filler.

Otherwise, you can’t know from the packaging because pink slime does not have to appear on the label. And the USDA is giving no indication it will force meat packers to lift the veil of secrecy any time soon.
UPDATE: Per the Atlanta Buisness JournalWal-Mart, Food Lion, Stop N Shop and SuperValue are getting rid of Pink Slime in their Ground Beef.  Also, Houston Independent School District has gone on record stating they have inspected their beef and it is Pink-Slime Free.  

4. Additionally, fellow blogger started an online petition to pull Pink Ammonia Slime from School lunches in the US.  That petition recently topped 200,000 signatures.

5.  Former USDA MicroBiologist Gerald Zirnstein raised his objections to it and has gone so far as to say he is personally buying beef roast or steaks and grinding his own beef at home rather than trust a local grocery store.

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6. How To Avoid it at the Grocery Store

Companies aren’t required to say they used pink slime in a product. So the only way to read that something 100% from whatever part of the cow (100% ground chuck or ground sirloin for example). If it does not have this 100% label or you are still having doubts, then only way to know for sure that you are pink slime free is to have a butcher grind the meat right in front of you. There are places they will do this. Next time you are at your local grocery store, grab a roast (such as a boneless chuck eye roast) and ask someone behind the butcher counter if they can grind it for you. Any grocery store interested in giving good customer service should do this for you.'s Good Guys List

I have been contacting my favourite as well as not so favourite burger joints and am compiling a list of those places that have not used Ammonia Treated Beef.  Thus far I have received definitive "We do not use Ammonia Treated Beef and Fillers" statements from:

Bernie's Burger Bus
The Burger Guys
Five Guys Burgers and Fries 
The Hubcap Brill
Jerry Built Burgers 
Red Robin

I will update this list as I get responses that the restaurants DO NOT USE Ammonia Treated Beef and Fillers.  

In the meanwhile, be vigilant with your meat and burgers so that you can:
Eat Happy, Y'all!!!

Hank the Foodie Professor


rain said...

Be careful when it comes to choosing your meat. Consumers also have to be aware on this issue.

rockville centre catering

kaizo clark said...

It's like adding a lot of glycerol in what is supposed to be delicious burger patty. The taste of original patty is much better than the patty filled with this pink solution. Try the patties from catering suffolk services, I'm sure you'll like it.