Friday, March 30, 2012

Is There "Pink Slime" Filler in Your Hamburger?

Do you really want to know what's in that beef?
Not since reading Michael Pollan's 2006 The Omnivore's Dilemma have I been so moved by a story. So much that it impacts what I buy at the market. Do you really know what's in your hamburger? I'll admit that the whole process of creating ground beef is gross enough, but why do they have to add a "pink slime" filler to the ground beef? 

The latest stories about the "pink slime" additive to American ground beef may be one of the most disgusting food additives I've seen. If you haven't already heard about this "pink slime" filler, google it for yourself. Very few news reports or books will dramatically change my eating habits but this is one that makes me change where I shop and attempt to be more aware of what's in the beef I serve to my kids.

This was all started when Jaimie Oliver's Food Revolution, a British celebrity chef, aired a TV show that showcased a beef additive that looks like pink slime. The beef industry refers to this filler as "lean, finely textured beef." It is actually a beef filler that is made up of the waste from butchering a cow, specifically the part that's not fit for human consumption. These scraps are then ground up, treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill any E coli bacteria, and then added to beef. Up to 15% of this "pink slime" can be legally put into ground beef and sold in grocery stores. Up to 70% of supermarket beef contains this "pink slime."

The worst part is that the ground beef labels do not say "15% pink slime additive". You have no idea if the ground beef from your local grocery store or the fast food hamburger you are buying contains "pink slime." However since this story exploded in the news media McDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell have stopped using ground beef that contains "pink slime." Also Safeway, Krogers, and Costco have pulled this ground beef with this additive from their shelves. Also USDA organic beef cannot contain any fillers so there is not (or ever has been) any "pink slime" additive.

Will this drive up the cost of beef? Yes because 1.5 million more head of cattle will be needed to compensate for that 15% of "pink slime" additive currently in ground beef. I don't mind paying more for beef if it's "pink slime" free. Yet another reason to buy USDA organic beef.

The Omnivore's Dilemma moved me to completely stop drinking soda pop, give up fast food, and attempt to completely cut out corn syrup and corn from my diet. Although it may end up as a complete scare tactic targeting ground beef, it is effective. It's made me think twice about buying beef, and I'm now doing all that I can to avoid that "pink slime" beef additive.


alyssa said...

I've never been a fan of beef to begin with, but the though of pink slime is disgusting.

On a slightly different note, I read a very interesting book on wasting food. It has also helped change my food purchasing/throwing habits. No mention of pink slime though. "American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)" by Jonathan Bloom

Anonymous said...

When in doubt, buy organic food! It is the safest and healthiest choice available.

Tess DeGeest said...

I agree - going organic on all meat and dairy is essential (though organic cheese is difficult to find and very spendy!). We also go organic for veggies and most fruits (those where we eat the skin).

I wonder what else is in our overly processed food that we don't even know about.....? I don't know about you, but I am totally ok with government regulation here!