Social media networks have been eating up Pink Slime recently - no pun intended. Lean, finely textured beef (LFTB), also known as “pink slime” that is found in many of our beef products, is the hot new nutrition topic of interest this spring. LFTB is a low fat, high protein product derived from beef-fat trimmings. It is added to processed meat products to add value and avoid waste.
How is LFTP produced? Beef trimmings are warmed and whipped together in a centrifuge that spins out the fat. The resulting product is 94-97 percent lean. Beef often contains a high load of pathogenic bacteria such as various E. coli strains and salmonella. In order to kill the microbes, ammonium hydroxide (which is generally recognized as a safe ingredient by the FDA) is added to LFTB. This procedure makes for a perfect stew of controversy. Some food and health experts suggest that due to the highly-processed way that LFTB is created – mixing many different cows and parts together, that the risk of pathogen presence increases. However, the LFTB that leaves the plant is tested for the absence of Salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria.
Because LFTB is made from fat trimmings, the protein in it is much higher in collagen content and lower in muscle-derived proteins than pure ground beef. This makes the protein quality lower. Many meat companies who make ground beef add LFTB to make a lower fat beef product and to make it more economical for the consumer.
According to ABC News, LFTB was added to up to 70 percent of the ground beef sold in the U.S. This has resulted in widespread consumer concern. Safeway and SuperValu grocery stores have plans to stop selling ground beef made with LGTB and Walmart is considering offering consumers a choice of products containing LFTB or not. The USDA also announced that due to customer demand they will offer schools a choice to order ground beef products either with or without LFTB.
While products with additives may be safe to eat, consumers should have the right to identify products containing such additives like LFTB. Perhaps in the future USDA will consider mandatory labeling of products containing LFTB, but for now it is a voluntary procedure.