Have you heard about “pink slime” in ground beef? It’s the term affectionately used by meat industry insiders that refers to a pinkish paste made of meat scraps from the slaughterhouse floor. These scraps were once only used for pet food and cooking oil, but now, a company called Beef Products, Inc. created a process to collect the meat scraps, send them through a series of machines, and inject it with ammonia to kill pathogens like E. coli and salmonella. This “pink slime,” is marketed to hamburger makers and ends up in 70 percent of burgers in the United States. It’s also served in our country’s public school cafeterias!
According to a recent article in The New York Times, blocks of pink slime are mixed into conventional ground beef at McDonald’s and Burger King as well as in school lunches. America’s school lunch program bought 3.5 million pounds last year alone, the article reports, but ammonia doesn’t always kill pathogens. Government and industry records obtained by The New York Times show that in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella have been found dozens of times in Beef Products, Inc. meat.
These types of pathogens are also found in chickens. Each year, salmonella and campylobacter from chicken infect at least 3.4 million Americans, send 25,500 to hospitals, and kill about 500, according to estimates by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While both salmonella and campylobacter are known to cause intestinal distress, campylobacter can lead to meningitis, arthritis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a severe neurological condition.
A recent USA Today investigation found that in the past three years, our country’s public schools have been giving our kids millions of pounds of beef and chicken that wouldn’t meet the quality or safety standards of many fast-food restaurants. McDonald’s, Burger King and Costco, for instance, test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day. And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.
For chicken, the USDA has supplied schools with thousands of tons of meat from old birds that might otherwise go to compost or pet food. KFC won’t buy them, and either will The Campbell Soup Company.
Translation: we give our schools food that wouldn’t be accepted at fast food restaurants. That’s crazy!
After USA TODAY presented USDA officials with its findings, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack promised an independent review of testing requirements for ground beef sent to schools.
Until hamburger meat and chicken becomes cleaner, your best line of defense is to buy organic whenever possible, and look for “air chilled” chicken, which is among the cleanest, according to Consumer Report. Consider buying “grass-fed” beef which means that cattle were raised on pasture instead of in factory feedlots and not given any growth hormones or antibiotics. This meat is also higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, plus grass-fed beef has 500 percent more CLA, a beneficial fat, than cows fed a grain-based diet.
Beth Greer, Super Natural Mom™, is the bestselling author of Super Natural Home as well as a radio talk show host and impassioned champion of toxin-free living who busts open the myth that our homes are safe havens. Beth is a contributing blogger for The Washington Times Communities and NaturallySavvy.com. Follow Beth on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook.
(photo credit: Washington Times Communities)