Just when you thought your hamburger was safe, Pink Slime is back for round two. This reminds us of horror movies franchises that produce sequels year after year; only in this case the nightmare has turned into reality.
For those of you scratching your head, here’s some background: when a cow is slaughtered and butchered there are multiple types of meat produced. The highest quality filet mignon is accompanied by tougher cuts of meat, and the scraps that traditionally have not been used because they were very filthy and full of fat.
Thanks to a company called Beef Products International (BPI), these scraps have been transformed into Lean Finely Textured Beef – basically ground up meat that can be used to make hamburgers. The product is cheaper than regular ground beef and so it became very popular in school lunch programs funded by the USDA.
The problem is that the processing of the beef scraps includes the use of ammonia. Why would you add ammonia to beef? Simply because these filthy scraps are a wonderful breeding ground for potential pathogens and the ammonia treatment kills them off. The only problem is that BPI could not get the process to work well all the time, and customers sometimes complained of a strong ammonia smell in their meat. In other cases, not enough ammonia was used which means the meat may still be infested with dangerous pathogens.
Because of these issues, the product has been dubbed Pink Slime, a name that BPI could not shake and ultimately led the firm to the brink of bankruptcy last year. An online petition to stop schools from selling Pink Slime burgers to kids went viral, was picked up by mainstream media, and virtually overnight halted all orders from BPI. That’s where we left off last year.
But it turns out BPI did not shut its factory gates. It held on to several loyal clients: the state lunch program of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. And, this fall, four additional states are coming back: Texas, Virginia, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Why would they do that? Money, of course. If funding was not an issue, schools would be serving higher quality meat. But schools are barely managing with the meager funding provided by the USDA for lunch programs, so even a few cents off per pound can mean big savings to a school system with hundreds of thousands of mouths to feed every day.
If you are a parent in one of these states, make your voice heard. For mainstream media, and most of online media, this story is not interesting anymore.