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What's in Your Ground Beef? Pink Slime


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#1 Calabrese

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 11:01 AM

http://www.huffingto..._n_1332429.html

The price of beef has risen dramatically in recent months and years. That's led many consumers to shift away from steaks and towards cheaper hamburgers and meatloaves when they've had a hankering for cow. But record highs mean that even ground beef is getting pricier. What's a supermarket, looking to keep the price of ground beef competitive, to do? Use the cheapest possible kind of ground beef: the much-reviled "pink slime."According to a recent "ABC World News" report from Jim Avila, 70% of ground beef sold in supermarkets contains the ammonia-treated sludge, which is the the product of a method for salvaging meat scraps from otherwise unusable parts of a carcass.

Avila was tipped off to the startling figure by a whistleblower at the USDA -- who says he has quit his job out of disgust with the product.




Kind of makes you wonder about restaurant burgers too, doesn't it?

#2 singingpig

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 01:59 PM



#3 jennifer

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 02:00 PM

McD's stopped using this stuff. And the USDA just bought 7 million pounds of it to be sent to schools around the country for use in school lunches. Lovely.

#4 TastyTidbits1

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 11:26 PM

Our schools serve floor sweepings. Shameful.

#5 ExtraMSG

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 12:23 AM

The 70% claim sounds like bullshit. They say that the use isn't accounted for, then one person pulls a number out of his ass -- a conveniently large and round number -- and then everyone parrots it like it's fact. And how much of this stuff can there actually be? It's just trimmings, most of which is fat to begin with.

Requiring accurate labels seems like a reasonable policy, but this sounds like typical internet hullabaloo about something that's less a problem than something easily sensationalized.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

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#6 sacman

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 02:40 AM

I agree a thousand percent with MSG. Really:

  • It's physically harmless, even if it's contaminated with a little ammonia. It takes a comparatively huge amount of aqueous ammonia to harm a human.
  • Both the human body, beef, and flesh decay organisms naturally produce ammonia - this is not some bogey-chemical, it's all around us and inside us. It's also used to treat "regular" ground beef. It's used in leavening agents. It's just fine to use it to directly decontaminate meat.
  • It's still beef - it's not like we're talking about some kind of soy-derived filler.
  • It's probably more respectful toward a meat animal to turn the scraps into something a human can eat versus dog food. Whatever happened to the "waste nothing" ethos?
  • The Jamie Oliver video tries to make a case that these scraps come from less desirable parts of the cow - bits of meat near the body cavity or something like that. This is just a weird claim, given that tripe itself is legal to sell. Whole slabs of ribs are readily available, and encasing the body cavity is pretty much all they do.
  • The process is quite effective at killing pathogenic bugs.

So what's the problem? It's "gross?" Well, I could give you that, as it's subjective. How about this: people are mad because it's perhaps a bit of false advertising? You've got a vision of a butcher slicing up a carcass and feeding the meat into a grinder and, well, that's what ground beef is, right? Any deviation is misleading, perhaps?

Well, I don't buy it, for the simple fact that its...beef. It's from the same grade of beef that's used to produce the bulk of the finished ground beef product.

This stuff is found in fast-food beef products, prepared frozen hamburger patties, and various other highly-processed beef-containing products. In other words, it's used in beef products that are prepared in centralized commissaries, then shipped to stores. A package like this is very unlikely to contain this product. The articles linked above fully support that. I could go on and on about this - it's as asinine as the "no antibiotics in my beef!" argument.

There are plenty of things wrong with the American food landscape, but this really isn't one of them IMHO. Before you waste another ounce of energy worrying about this, you should consider the horrors of intensive pig farming, the depletion of the ocean's fisheries, the general lack of diet education in America, the unbelievably self-serving "government food pyramid", and, of course, America's ever-expanding waistline (closely linked to the food pyramid). Or how about this: you should get really pissed off that the finished ground beef product may contain beef from not only several different states, but several different countries! Talk about inefficiencies...

Okay, off the soap box now.

-sacman
- I am an employee of a Portland-based firm that has business relationships with several local food-related businesses.

#7 Calabrese

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 06:47 AM

If some of you don't care what you put in your digestive tracts, so be it. But why be all bent when people want to have information to make choices that don't match yours? Why are other people's choices something you feel the need to weigh in on? And what does ammonia do to small children or to humans over a lifetime? Does the word dioxin ring any bells?

Some of you might have no problems with all the crap that Monsanto is doing either. However, I think they've gone overboard when they want to sue anyone who has seeds which have been been contaminated because of them but they don't want to be sued over contamination (and they can buy judges to protect themselves)

http://nyulocal.com/...brooklyn-court/

#8 jafar

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 09:51 AM

I agree a thousand percent with MSG. Really:

  • It's physically harmless, even if it's contaminated with a little ammonia. It takes a comparatively huge amount of aqueous ammonia to harm a human.
  • Both the human body, beef, and flesh decay organisms naturally produce ammonia - this is not some bogey-chemical, it's all around us and inside us. It's also used to treat "regular" ground beef. It's used in leavening agents. It's just fine to use it to directly decontaminate meat.
  • It's still beef - it's not like we're talking about some kind of soy-derived filler.
  • It's probably more respectful toward a meat animal to turn the scraps into something a human can eat versus dog food. Whatever happened to the "waste nothing" ethos?
  • The Jamie Oliver video tries to make a case that these scraps come from less desirable parts of the cow - bits of meat near the body cavity or something like that. This is just a weird claim, given that tripe itself is legal to sell. Whole slabs of ribs are readily available, and encasing the body cavity is pretty much all they do.
  • The process is quite effective at killing pathogenic bugs.

So what's the problem? It's "gross?" Well, I could give you that, as it's subjective. How about this: people are mad because it's perhaps a bit of false advertising? You've got a vision of a butcher slicing up a carcass and feeding the meat into a grinder and, well, that's what ground beef is, right? Any deviation is misleading, perhaps?

Well, I don't buy it, for the simple fact that its...beef. It's from the same grade of beef that's used to produce the bulk of the finished ground beef product.

This stuff is found in fast-food beef products, prepared frozen hamburger patties, and various other highly-processed beef-containing products. In other words, it's used in beef products that are prepared in centralized commissaries, then shipped to stores. A package like this is very unlikely to contain this product. The articles linked above fully support that. I could go on and on about this - it's as asinine as the "no antibiotics in my beef!" argument.

There are plenty of things wrong with the American food landscape, but this really isn't one of them IMHO. Before you waste another ounce of energy worrying about this, you should consider the horrors of intensive pig farming, the depletion of the ocean's fisheries, the general lack of diet education in America, the unbelievably self-serving "government food pyramid", and, of course, America's ever-expanding waistline (closely linked to the food pyramid). Or how about this: you should get really pissed off that the finished ground beef product may contain beef from not only several different states, but several different countries! Talk about inefficiencies...

Okay, off the soap box now.

-sacman


Sacman, why do they process this meat with ammonia gas? To kill the fecal bacteria that that this process collects in higher concentration.

Why do I want to eat meat that isn't treated with ammonia? Becuase I prefer to have as little shit (literally) as possible in my meat. One of the benefits of the fact that fecal bacteria is dangerous is that it means that producers need to take sanitation measures to try and avoid getting loads of feces in the meat.

But their solution is to process the byproduct, meat, fat, shit, goo soup to extract protein and then just attack it with ammonia gas to kill the bacteria. I have a similar objection to irradiation. Not because I think the radiation is harmful, but because it takes away the incentive to use good practices.

Calling this a respectful use of the animal just seems bizarre and perhaps cynical to me. Feeding it to dogs sounds like a much better idea to me, and how is that waste?

I also don't understand what you are trying to say about antibiotics. Isn't the objection to preemtively feeding cows antibiotics that it guides the evolution of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria that are a serious risk to human health? Again, its a matter of practices. There's nothing wrong with treating the occasionaly sick cow with antibiotics, but if the fundamental model is predicated on raising cows in a manner in which they cannot be healthy without antibiotics that is not sustainably viable.

And if you're all about the idea that people have choices and corporations should be allowed to sell whatever they want and let the market sort it out, well, school children are about the least sophisticated consumers and they are compelled to be in school.

#9 polloelastico

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 11:00 AM

Given a choice, I'd prefer to know that anything I'm eating contains conglomerated cow anus treated with unnaturally occurring chemical derivatives. Is that too much to ask?
“Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” — George Carlin

#10 singingpig

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 12:11 PM

I think this article from the NY Times is pretty thorough on the subject.

Just because this users of this lime aren't required to put it on the labels doesn't mean that it isn't tracked. The company itself says"

The company says its processed beef, a mashlike substance frozen into blocks or chips, is used in a majority of the hamburger sold nationwide. But it has remained little known outside industry and government circles. Federal officials agreed to the company’s request that the ammonia be classified as a “processing agent” and not an ingredient that would be listed on labels.

Is it 70%? dunno. Pretty easy to get the figures for how much burger si produced in the US every year, how much slime is produce every year and then using the USDA limit for the max % of slime/lb of burger is allowed, arrive at a rough estimate of how much of the countries' burger contains this slime.


http://www.nytimes.c...?pagewanted=all

#11 Calabrese

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 01:24 PM

BTW, you should all be more worried than you think. The ex-husband of a woman I dated for awhile was the manager over inspections in a meat processing plant (well known company) long ago. It was his first job out of college. He objected strenuously to some unsafe practices being done at that plant and found himself with a pink slip. Luckily for him, his father was a mucky in the USDA, so he was able to "find work" elsewhere. After that early experience, I am told he was counseled to be more tactful if he ever came across severe violations again. And he ended up learning he needed to take that approach. So don't expect the industry cares about much more than profit. And understand that people who do care don't last too long if they are working for any of the largest processors.

#12 sacman

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 01:55 PM

Producing unsafe/contaminated product is extraordinarily unprofitable for American food processors. I'm sure I don't need to cite examples.

-sacman
- I am an employee of a Portland-based firm that has business relationships with several local food-related businesses.

#13 Calabrese

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 02:21 PM

Here's what NYS Health Dept has to say about ammonia

http://www.health.ny...nia_general.htm

Ammonia is corrosive. The severity of health effects depends on the route of exposure, the dose and the duration of exposure. Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia in air causes immediate burning of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract and can result in blindness, lung damage or death. Inhalation of lower concentrations can cause coughing, and nose and throat irritation.Swallowing ammonia can cause burns to the mouth, throat and stomach. Skin or eye contact with concentrated ammonia can also cause irritation and burns.



Long term exposure risks http://healthychild....al-pop/ammonia/ (watch for history as with dioxins, lather, rinse, repeat)




Longterm or Delayed Health Effects

  • This chemical may cause cancer. It is considered a Possible Carcinogen by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or another agency.
  • Asthma Trigger
Other
  • Those with reduced liver function are at increased risk of symptoms from exposure.
  • ........
  • If swallowed in household cleaning products, may cause burns in the mouth, throat and stomach.
  • Repeated or prolonged exposure to high levels may damage the eyes, liver, kidneys, and lungs, and may cause bronchitis to develop, with cough, phlegm and shortness of breath.


A few other things to consider... like combination of substances

http://www.drugabuse...obacco-products

Tobacco smoke is a complex mixture of chemicals such as carbon monoxide, tar, formaldehyde, cyanide, and ammonia—many of which are known carcinogens.



#14 RM

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 08:54 PM

Having once sniffed a jug of liquid ammonia cleaner to determine what it was (yeah, I know -- dumb thing to do), I can attest to the effect on your body. I couldn't breath or speak for at least a minute.

Any indication of how much ammonia is present in beef with pink slime added? And at what level is trace ammonia a problem? I'd prefer not to have this pink slime filler in ground beef that I eat, or at the very least know that it is included, but I don't know that we need to start considering it the next BPA.

#15 ExtraMSG

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 12:49 AM

Sacman, why do they process this meat with ammonia gas? To kill the fecal bacteria that that this process collects in higher concentration.

Why do I want to eat meat that isn't treated with ammonia? Becuase I prefer to have as little shit (literally) as possible in my meat. One of the benefits of the fact that fecal bacteria is dangerous is that it means that producers need to take sanitation measures to try and avoid getting loads of feces in the meat.

But their solution is to process the byproduct, meat, fat, shit, goo soup to extract protein and then just attack it with ammonia gas to kill the bacteria. I have a similar objection to irradiation. Not because I think the radiation is harmful, but because it takes away the incentive to use good practices.

Calling this a respectful use of the animal just seems bizarre and perhaps cynical to me. Feeding it to dogs sounds like a much better idea to me, and how is that waste?

I also don't understand what you are trying to say about antibiotics. Isn't the objection to preemtively feeding cows antibiotics that it guides the evolution of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria that are a serious risk to human health? Again, its a matter of practices. There's nothing wrong with treating the occasionaly sick cow with antibiotics, but if the fundamental model is predicated on raising cows in a manner in which they cannot be healthy without antibiotics that is not sustainably viable.

And if you're all about the idea that people have choices and corporations should be allowed to sell whatever they want and let the market sort it out, well, school children are about the least sophisticated consumers and they are compelled to be in school.


I just did a quick search on the USDA's site. .3% of all sampled ground beef in federal plants has e coli. According to the NYT article, .06% of the "pink slime" had e coli. That means that typical ground beef is 5 times more likely to have e coli than "pink slime". So I'm not sure how "good practices" is to be interpreted here if the safety of the meat is the goal.

Jafar, didn't you have tripe at Mi Mero Mole? That took 6 hours of processing after being processed industrially before that. ;-)

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#16 ExtraMSG

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 01:08 AM

Just because chlorine gas was used in WWI as a weapon of mass destruction doesn't mean that all the restaurants using chlorine to clean dining tables, knives, work surfaces, and cutting boards are poisoning their customers.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#17 ExtraMSG

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 01:17 AM

Given a choice, I'd prefer to know that anything I'm eating contains conglomerated cow anus treated with unnaturally occurring chemical derivatives. Is that too much to ask?


Knowing it is great. Sensationalizing it and exploiting people's fears and ignorance isn't.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#18 jafar

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 10:31 AM

...
I just did a quick search on the USDA's site. .3% of all sampled ground beef in federal plants has e coli. According to the NYT article, .06% of the "pink slime" had e coli. That means that typical ground beef is 5 times more likely to have e coli than "pink slime". So I'm not sure how "good practices" is to be interpreted here if the safety of the meat is the goal.

Jafar, didn't you have tripe at Mi Mero Mole? That took 6 hours of processing after being processed industrially before that. ;-)


Nick, surely they are testing for e coli in the pink slime after treating it with ammonia. The purpose of treating with the ammonia is to kill bacteria, so one would expect the bacteria levels to be low after treatment (although apparently there have been some recent problems with the effectivenessof the treatment) The point I was trying to make, and one not specific to this pink slime situation, is that it is important to take measures to keep feces out of the meat.

Your point about the tripe at Mi Mero Mole is a good is good. I'm glad that you spent considerable time removing the nasty stuff from the tripe. If instead you just dipped it in a vat of chlorine, or sprayed it with ammonia gas, I wouldn't eat it. (I haven't tried the tripe yet but would like to, won't be trying tripa).

#19 ExtraMSG

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 12:13 PM

Nick, surely they are testing for e coli in the pink slime after treating it with ammonia. The purpose of treating with the ammonia is to kill bacteria, so one would expect the bacteria levels to be low after treatment (although apparently there have been some recent problems with the effectivenessof the treatment) The point I was trying to make, and one not specific to this pink slime situation, is that it is important to take measures to keep feces out of the meat.


I understand. My point was that if the end result is safer -- ie, contains less e coli -- then it turns the phrase "good practices," as you used it, on its head.

Your point about the tripe at Mi Mero Mole is a good is good. I'm glad that you spent considerable time removing the nasty stuff from the tripe. If instead you just dipped it in a vat of chlorine, or sprayed it with ammonia gas, I wouldn't eat it. (I haven't tried the tripe yet but would like to, won't be trying tripa).


All tripe in the U.S., I believe, is sold "scalded" -- ie, pre-cleaned. The cleaning process includes extensive cleaning, which also includes sending it through a washing machine where soap and chemicals are applied.

Chicken is either dunked or sprayed with chlorinated water. "Air chilling" has become very popular in grocers like Whole Foods in the last couple years 1) because it produces better tasting chicken, and 2) because being sprayed with chlorinated water rather than being dipped in a vat of water with other birds keeps the birds much freer of salmonella.

Mushrooms are grown in pasteurized horse manure. (I believe this includes a process where they're treated with ammonia gas, but I'd have to double-check that.)

And, again, every restaurant you visit is wiping their cutting boards and knives with chlorinated water. The health department requires it. They could clean the knives thoroughly and then let them air dry after every use rather than just at the end of a shift, but the cost of your meal would go up considerably.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#20 jafar

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 04:35 PM

...
All tripe in the U.S., I believe, is sold "scalded" -- ie, pre-cleaned. The cleaning process includes extensive cleaning, which also includes sending it through a washing machine where soap and chemicals are applied.

Chicken is either dunked or sprayed with chlorinated water. "Air chilling" has become very popular in grocers like Whole Foods in the last couple years 1) because it produces better tasting chicken, and 2) because being sprayed with chlorinated water rather than being dipped in a vat of water with other birds keeps the birds much freer of salmonella.

Mushrooms are grown in pasteurized horse manure. (I believe this includes a process where they're treated with ammonia gas, but I'd have to double-check that.)

And, again, every restaurant you visit is wiping their cutting boards and knives with chlorinated water. The health department requires it. They could clean the knives thoroughly and then let them air dry after every use rather than just at the end of a shift, but the cost of your meal would go up considerably.


Yes, but then the mushrooms are brushed, or washed not simply irradiated or treated with chemicals.

I'm not against using chlorine or amonia to sanitize and remove pathogens. I simply against using them in lieu of hygiene.

After taking a bathroom break I don't necessarily have an objection to you using hand sanitizer. What I would object to is you wiping with your bare hand, forgoing washing them, and applying hand sanitizer to your soiled hand.

The pink goo process basically makes a puree that includes the manure and then tries to kill the pathogens associated with the manure without actually removing the manure itself. Am I failing to make clear the distinction?