The controversy of the pink slime

Pink slime has become a recent buzz word in the media. Pink slime is the process through which scrap meat and connective tissue are cleaned and clarified to create ground meat safe for humans to eat. Attention was drawn to this issue by an episode of “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.”

The process of creating pink slime is grinding scrap meat and connective tissue from parts of the animal most people do not eat. The connective tissue acts to firm the meat up. As the meat is being ground, a mixture of water and ammonia is added to the meat connective tissue mixture; this is done to help ensure the meat lasts longer by preventing E. coli or salmonella. The company that creates this product is called Beef Products, Inc. They are responsible for providing McDonald’s and other companies with their meat products.

What's in your hamburger? Graphic by Laura Bramble.

In the episode, Oliver said, “Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold at the cheapest form for dogs, and after this process we can give it to humans.”

These statements brought public outrage after the episode when it was discovered that fast food chains like McDonald’s had been serving the pink slime for years.

McDonald’s has since stopped using the ground meat product. According to a statement from McDonald’s they stopped using the product in August 2011. Other companies such as Taco Bell and Burger King also stopped using the product shortly after the episode aired.

Some might criticize Oliver for starting a scare over nothing. One of the main issues of concern with the pink slime was its supposed high ammonia content. Many fruits and vegetables are naturally high in ammonia, several times higher than the amount used to treat the meat and connective tissue.

While the episode from Oliver’s TV show may have stopped some fast food giants from continuing its use, a recent report from The Daily suggests that the USDA plans to continue purchasing the ground beef mixture for the school lunch program.

While a lot of the concern over pink slime appears to have been inflated, it does raise an important question about how food is produced in the US. Many consumers have no idea what is in their foods or how it is made. This lack of knowledge makes people likely to consume products that they otherwise would not. It may be time that the American public becomes more aware of what goes into their food. One suggestion that comes from this outbreak of consciousness is that companies should post labels informing consumers if the ground meat they are getting has been subject to the pink slime process. This request seems like a reasonable fix to what some view as a large issue.