Tag Archives: Jamie Oliver

PINK SLIME, THE SEQUEL: beef scraps and connective tissue, ammonia hydroxide and the national school lunch program

The media provided fairly extensive coverage of the fast food industry’s use of “pink slime.”  The obnoxious substance consists of fatty beef scraps and connective tissue that are treated with ammonia hydroxide to remove pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli.  The concoction is put in a centrifuge to isolate those parts that contain protein, which transforms the scraps into a gelatinous substance that bears a striking resemblance to a certain anti-diarrhea medication.

Once the process is complete, it is used as a filler for commercial ground beef used by fast food restaurants and sold by grocery stores.  Gerald Zirnstein, formerly employed as a scientist with the United States Department of Agriculture, claims that around 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets contains the pink slime.

Let the outrage commence.  The media reports, coupled with significant grassroots efforts, served only to fuel a public outcry against the use of fatty beef fillers treated with ammonia hydroxide. Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver led the charge, using his television show as a soapbox and declaring:

[b]asically, 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.

McDonald’s decided to stop relying upon the substance.  Taco Bell and Burger King discontinued its use.  H-E-B, Whole Foods, Publix and Kroger won’t touch the filler.  Craig Wilson, the Vice President of Quality Assurance of Costco, explained that

[a]nything we sell at Costco, we want to explain it’s origins, and I personally don’t know how to explain trim treated with ammonia in our ground beef… I just don’t know how to explain that.

For whatever its worth, Safeway has yet to commit to removing the ingredient and is instead “reviewing the matter at this time.”

Safeway may be late to the party, but its commitment to review the matter at least suggests that the company is well ahead of the federal government.

Earlier this week, the media reported that the USDA now plans to use approximately 7 million pounds of meat containing ammonia-treated scraps for the national school lunch program.  Around 6.5% of ground beef consumed by children in the school lunch program will therefore be treated with ammonia hydroxide.

Loosely translated, the federal government wants our children to consume a substance that has been flatly rejected by the fast food industry.  You really can’t make this stuff up.

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OVERHEARD AT A FAST FOOD CHAIN: sir, would you like mustard, ketchup or ammonia with your burger… and do you want fries with that?

The word “pink” is said to be derived from flora in the genus Dianthus, which includes carnations and around three hundred other flowering plants known for their colorful frills.  The word has since been used to describe a color varying from light crimson to pale reddish purple.

Today, pink is often associated with Valentine’s Day and is frequently referred to as the “color of love.”  The word has evolved in cultural significance, and pink is now commonly used as an adjective to describe cadillacs, elephants, panthers and slips.

And the color just may be giving the fast food a bit of a black… sorry… pink eye.  Rim shot!

At the same time that McDonald’s was announcing its new processed chicken product and Taco Bell was increasing its line of breakfast offerings, someone revived an image of a pink tubular substance and began circulating it throughout the ‘net.  The photograph soon went viral, and an untold number of recipients were greeted by a rather disturbing image of gloved hands manipulating a material that closely resembles a rosy intestinal discharge.

Then it got worse.  The caption indicated that the mass is actually a biological component that has been constructed for use in the production, sale and consumption of meat served by a number of fast food restaurants.  In other words, we’ve been eating the damn thing.  As the Fooducate Blog originally reported,

[s]omeone figured out in the 1960′s that meat processors can eek eke out a few more percent of profit from chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows by scraping the bones 100% clean of meat. This is done by machines, not humans, by passing bones leftover after the initial cutting through a high pressure sieve. The paste you see in the picture above is the result…

Then it somehow got even worse.  I stumbled upon an older article drafted by Blogger Michael Kindt, author of Early Onset of the Night, where he described the process in a little more detail:

Basically, the entire chicken is smashed and pressed through a sieve—bones, eyes, guts, and all. it comes out looking like this.

There’s more: because it’s crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia, soaked in it, actually. Then, because it tastes gross, it will be reflavored artificially. Then, because it is weirdly pink, it will be dyed with artificial color.

In other words, we’ve been consuming the edible equivalent of a biological dumping ground – but only after its contents have been scrubbed with a commercial cleaner and flavored with some type of contrived extract.

And we’ve probably been consuming this deep-pink-something for quite some time.  Several years ago, the underlying processing was the subject of at least some national attention and criticism.  At the time, Beef Products Inc. began using the procedure to more efficiently market and distribute increasing quantities of beef and beef-like substances.  McDonald’s, Burger King, retail grocery stores and others quickly embraced the procedure and the innards-and-ammonia combination became a key component of ground beef used to prepare federally subsidized school lunches, commercial ground meat, big macs, whoppers and various super-sized delicacies.

Recently, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver reignited the campaign to remove beef filler containing ammonia from the retail food industry.  He denounced its use on his show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, claiming that industry was “taking a product that would be sold at the cheapest form for dogs and after this process…  giv[ing] it to humans.”  The mainstream media began covering his crusade, and a video of his televised efforts has since also gone viral.

It seems to have worked.  McDonald’s recently announced that it would remove all products distributed by Beef Products Inc from its restaurants.  Burger King and Taco Bell have also discontinued the use of so-called “boneless lean beef trimmings” in their food.

McDonald’s even published a statement on its website that describes its decision to sever ties with Beef Products Inc.  In the release, the fast food giant confirms that it will no longer use the processed filler in its products, but also explains that the decision “was not related to any particular event but rather to support our effort to align our global beef raw material standards.”  Reading between the lines, McDonald’s seemingly acknowledges Jamie Oliver’s campaign while simultaneously denying that it had any effect on its plan.

And, as an aside, the statement was attributed to Todd Bacon, McDonald’s Senior Director of Quality Systems for Supply Chain Management.  I can’t make this stuff up: the man who is authorized to speak about processed beef filling really is named after a pork product.

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