Consumers fight “pink slime”

by Lynn O’Neill

It was all over the news in March 2012 — the outrage over pink slime, a substance used as filler in ground beef, also known as lean finely textured beef or LFTB. Pink slime is a concoction of scraps, connective tissue and other parts of the cattle that has been “sanitized” with ammonium hydroxide (used in household cleaners and fertilizers) to kill salmonella and E. coli.

Millions of pounds of this filler were purchased by the USDA from Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) for the National School Lunch Program, until consumer groups learned of it. They then petitioned the USDA to allow schools to choose between serving LFTB-laden meat or meat without it.

Removing LFTB from the food supply was in part motivated by safety concerns over foodborne pathogen contamination and the fact that it does not have to appear on any labeling. Consumers were also aghast at the very notion of liquefied meat. However, approximately 70 percent of U.S. ground meat had already contained LFTB.

BPI quickly announced it was suspending its operations at three of its four plants that manufacture LFTB and another manufacturer is declaring bankruptcy. This might be seen as a victory for the consumer, but the story does not end there. Pink slime really just sheds light on one symptom of the bigger problem facing corporate American food production. The pink slime debacle is part of a continuing insult to the American consumer.

Most of our conventionally produced meat is unhealthy. Factory-farmed meat comes from sick animals that are fed corn, which causes them to suffer from chronic pain. As a result of being raised in filthy, cramped feedlots, these animals are drugged in order to boost their immune systems.

This story speaks to the power of the consumer and the burgeoning influence of social media. BPI and other conglomerates are scrambling now to fix their message, which hopefully will lead them to fix their industry.

For now, stick to grass-fed organic meats. Organic meats contain no slime. Stay tuned. The story changes daily.

Sources:, and


Lynn O’Neill is a San Diego writer, editor and copy editor who has worked in the natural food industry for 15 years.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 2, April/May 2012.

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