How the Pink Slime Ate It’s Creators

Pink Slime eats its creators.Created in the laboratory by beef suppliers as an inexpensive filler for ground beef and beef-based processed meats, pink slime consists of finely ground beef scraps, sinew, fat, and connective tissue.  Pink slime is also known as Lean Finely Textured Beef, and that’s the moniker that beef product manufacturers would prefer to use.

ABC News reported in March 2012 that 70% of ground beef sold in U.S. supermarkets contained the product.  It’s legal for pink slime to constitute up to 15% of ground beef without additional labeling.  A 2008 Washington Post article suggested the content of most beef patties containing the additive approaches 25%.

Pink slime is not permitted in Canada, and beef products containing pink slime may not be imported.  Pink slime does not met the legal requirements for sale in the United Kingdom, and the European Union has banned it.

In the U.S. consumers and consumer groups disgusted by the very idea of eating pink slime in their ground beef and worried about the safety of eating beef containing an ingredient disinfected by a process using ammonia voiced their concerns.  A Harris Interactive survey released on April 4, 2012 found that 88% of U.S. adults were aware of the “pink slime” issue and of that group, 76% were “at least somewhat concerned”, with 30% “extremely concerned”.

Manufacturer Beef Products Inc (BPI) and meat industry organizations have tried to counter the public concern by stating that the additive is in fact beef and have a publicity campaign going with the slogan “beef is beef”.  Most pink slime is produced and sold by Beef Products, Inc., Cargill Meat Solutions, and Tyson Foods.  They sell it to food companies which use it in ground beef production.

Because of the controversy many stores, including the three largest chains, no longer sell products containing pink slime.  Restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell announced that they would discontinue the use of BPI products in their food.  A Wendy’s spokesperson stated “We have never used lean finely textured beef (pink slime) because it doesn’t meet our high quality standards.”  Many school districts have stopped serving or are phasing out ground beef with the “low grade slurry”. 

So how did the Pink Slime eat it’s creators?  As a result of the controversy, the market for beef containing pink slime and for pink slime itself declined sharply.

In March 2012 BPI suspended production at three of its four plants.  The company announced that it was in “crisis planning” and halved it’s production of LFTB (pink slime).  At the end of May 2012, BPI closed its plants in Amarillo, Texas, Garden City, Kansas, and Waterloo, Iowa.  The company’s South Sioux City, Nebraska plant will remain open but run at reduced capacity.

In April 2012, another producer, AFA Foods, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In the meantime, pink slime is still out there in some stores and school lunchrooms.  The USDA has declined to require labeling of meat containing the filler.  Currently, pink slime is even allowed in meat labeled “100% Ground Beef”.  Only if a USDA Organic label is present can consumers know that the beef contains no pink slime.

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