By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD
Pink slime has been all over the news this week. If you aren’t familiar with it yet, unfortunately (for a few reasons) it isn’t because there’s a Nickelodeon “Double Dare” remake in the works. “Pink slime” refers to some stuff put into that package of 97% lean ground beef that eventually turns into your cheeseburger.
Wait, even I’m scratching my head that “lean ground beef” isn’t simply lean ground beef. But with food politics it’s never that simple – if your stomach hasn’t turned yet, get ready: pink slime refers specifically to the animal trimmings, or excess fat and other nasty waste products that should be tossed. But to save money, instead of being garbage, these trimmings are put into a spinning centrifuge and treated with ammonia to kill E. coli bacteria. This is where it officially becomes pink slime filler, and where it is mixed into an estimated 70% of the ground beef in the U.S. Eventually it makes it onto your plate via grocery stores, supermarkets, and school lunches.
The existence of pink slime in school lunches is where this has really turned into a (literal) food fight. And great news, as of Thursday March 15, the USDA is going to give schools the option to be pink slime-free.
But if you have no plans to eat a school lunch any time soon, should you be worried? Ammonia effectively kills e. coli, so on a pathogen front, no. At the same time, I would never recommend someone actively eat anything treated with ammonia, let alone animal trimmings that are essentially garbage.
Instead, what I’d recommend is if you want to buy ground beef, buy organic. Another option is to skip the ground beef all together and buy a lean cut of steak; no slimy fillers there! Leave the slime to re-runs of Double Dare.
So what do you think of pink slime in the news? Is it changing what you buy? Share your thoughts in the comments below or in our Food and Cooking community.