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article imageWhy 70% of U.S. ground beef includes 'pink slime'

By David Silverberg     Mar 8, 2012 in Food
An ABC News report interviewed a former United States Department of Agriculture scientist who knows almost three-quarters of American ground beef contain "pink slime," beef trimmings that once were only used in dog food.
Americans may soon be skeptical about the hamburgers they make after reading about whistleblowers who were compelled to tell the media about the so-called pink slime found in U.S. ground beef.
On Wednesday night, ABC News reported that 70 percent of the ground beef we buy at the supermarket contains something former USDA scientist Gerald Zinstein calls “pink slime.”
As the report states, this mixture is made by collecting waste trimmings, heating them at low heat so the fat separates easily from the muscle, and "spinning the trimmings using a centrifuge to complete the separation. Next, the mixture is sent through pipes where it is sprayed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria. The process is completed by packaging the meat into bricks. Then, it is frozen and shipped to grocery stores and meat packers, where it is added to most ground beef."
“It’s economic fraud,” Zirnstein said to ABC News. “It’s not fresh ground beef. … It’s a cheap substitute being added in.”
The substitute made someone a lot of money, namely Beef Products Inc. (BPI), the makers of pink slime.
Retired microbiologist Carl Custer told The Daily: “We originally called it soylent pink. We looked at the product and we objected to it because it used connective tissues instead of muscle. It was simply not nutritionally equivalent [to ground beef]. My main objection was that it was not meat.”
Custer and Zirnstein warned their superiors about the concoction years ago but their bosses overruled them, ABC writes. “The word in the office was that undersecretary JoAnn Smith pushed it through, and that was that,” Custer said. It should be noted Smith stepped down from the USDA in 1993, and then BPI’s principal major supplier appointed her to its board of directors, where she made at least $1.2 million over 17 years, ABC News writes.
Last year, the USDA said that 6.5 percent of the beef it purchased for the national school lunch program came from BPI, the Daily adds.
The pink slime controversy got the attention of fast-food outlets last month: McDonald's announced it would no longer be using ammonia-treated beef in its hamburgers.
The New York Times wrote BPI defended its use of the slime, saying it had reportedly perfected the technique to turn "fatty slaughterhouse trimmings into usable lean beef."
More about Ground beef, pink slime, Meat, meat eaters, ABC News
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