Readings — From the July 2013 issue

Mincing Words

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From emails sent in 2011 and 2012 by employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service concerning news reports that ground beef commonly contains lean finely textured beef, or “pink slime,” made from trimmings treated with ammonia. Thousands of pages of FSIS emails about pink slime were released by Food Safety News this April.

It is unclear exactly what “pink slime” is, but we believe they are referring to finely textured beef, which is normally pink in appearance and commonly comes in chips or blocks.

I thought this pictorial of “pink slime” might be of interest. It is pink because they add nitrite, and it is like paste or cement before it sets up.

I have been looking in the Code of Federal Regulations and am pretty sure I can dispute the claim that it is made from “floor sweepings” based on the “sanitary requirements,” but some of the other stuff I’m not sure about.

Merriam-Webster provides several meanings for the term “wholesome.” The meaning that applies within the context of FSIS inspection is “promoting health of body.” That meaning does not work well as a criterion for making a disposition on product. The standard for making a disposition on product listed in the statutes and regulations is the term “adulterated.” If a product is adulterated it is not wholesome. However, it is possible for a product to be not adulterated and be not wholesome.

FSIS does not “consider something to be ground beef” and does not determine “inferior quality.” FSIS is in the business of inspecting, not grading.

Burger King has begun using the product again because customers have complained about the alternative (untexturized fine lean beef).

The Administrator has approved the use of claims, e.g., “contains no finely textured beef,” “contains lean finely textured beef.” However, we will not approve claims referring to it as pink slime.

What about icons? Like an X over pink slime?

I would respond by pointing out that the industry has spent a great deal of money on research and has a vested interest in producing safe products while efficiently using as much of the raw product (in this case beef carcasses) as they can — this is smart both business-wise and environment-wise. It’s estimated by the American Meat Institute that it will take an additional 1.5 million head of cattle per year to make up the volume that will be lost due to not using LFTB — definitely not a “green” decision.

Pink Slime = Good. Green Slime = Bad?

Come on, a little connective tissue never hurt anyone. They are worried about pink slime and not worried about white slime, a.k.a. mechanically separated chicken? If you ever saw mechanically separated chicken produced you would never eat cheap variety-meat hot dogs again. A good description of the appearance is squished-up spinal cords with a little bit of pink mixed in (from the lungs they leave in) and some little yellow bits thrown in to add a little color. There is one plus — they have a lot of calcium from the ground-up bones. I will leave up to your imagination what the yellow bits might be.

The slime is what makes it taste good.

All I can think of for a definition is that it is trim from trim and where I come from that would still be trim, although it may be smaller, but again trim is trim unless it is bench trim or table trim or trim trim.

Did you get the pink-slime email from [redacted]? I forwarded to a few people and told them I hated to say it but the raw and the cooked with the slime looked better than the other to me.

The definition-of-food question is better handled by Jeff.

I am with USDA on this one. What you do not know will not hurt you. So just eat your hamburger and do not ask any questions. My wife is always complaining about the gristle in her ground beef. I just tell her not to chew her food sooo much. Just swallow it like a man.

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