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What ABC called "pink slime," USDA now says can be labeled "ground beef" (newfoodeconomy.org)
299 points by prostoalex 36 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 299 comments



I think the article linked in the posted one does a better job explaining what's "news" about this:

https://newfoodeconomy.org/bpi-pink-slime-ground-beef-usda-r...

> Since 1994, the government’s stance has been clear. Lean finely textured beef (LFTB) has been a “qualified component” of hamburger, meaning it can be included in ground beef without being independently disclosed. But it could not itself be called ground beef, suggesting that, in the eyes of regulators it was something else—a padding or additive, but not the real deal.

...

> That effort culminated in 2018, when BPI, citing advancements to its process, formally asked FSIS to consider whether its product might just be called “ground beef.”

> “It was an extensive review that took well over six months and included consumer reviews, nutritional panels, tours of the plant where agency folks could get a first-hand look at the process and understand what we are doing at BPI,” Nick Ross, BPI’s vice president of engineering, told Beef Magazine, a trade publication that covers the cattle industry.


I'm surprised quartz was willing to call it pink slime in the headline. That cost Disney/ABC a lot of money.

ABC didn't coin the term, incidentally. It was coined by a regulator at the FDA some years earlier.


Ok, we've changed the URL to that from https://qz.com/1552580/the-us-government-has-redefined-pink-.... Thanks!


I'm sorry, the languaging in this re-linking sounds like so much like industry shilling. "That product is then sterilized with a strong puff of ammonia gas to kill pathogens, as beef trimmings are especially susceptible to contamination."

With an elaborate explanation for each "terrible sounding" detail (what is this "puff" exactly, etc).

... except the sum total of the "terrible sounding" stuff is actually distinctly unappealing imo and only by stringing things across elaborate, carefully couched discussions is it plausible-seeming that this is "ground beef".

Basically, pink slime is highly processed leavings of beef that cannot be used except by putting it through more or less a blender and a chemistry lab. That fact leaves many consumers nervous when this is revealed. And this ruling isn't about whether you can produce this stuff but rather whether you have to tell people about it. Most people would like to know. You can judge the ruling based on that.


>Basically, pink slime is highly processed leavings of beef that cannot be used except by putting it through more or less a blender and a chemistry lab.

After butchering a carcass, you're left with a lot of fatty trimmings with small amounts of meat attached that are uneconomical to recover by hand. If you gently heat the fat trimmings and spin them in a centrifuge, you cleanly separate the lean meat from the fat. That process weakens the cell walls of the muscle fibres, which increases the risk of bacterial growth; to kill the bacteria, ammonium hydroxide gas is used to raise the pH. The FDA deems ammonium hydroxide to be safe, so it is widely used in US food manufacturing as an acidity regulator and antimicrobial agent. Other regulators disagree on the safety of ammonium hydroxide, in which case citric acid is used.

The production of LFTB is no weirder than any number of other food processes. It's a simple, efficient method for separating meat from fat. The media have made a mountain out of a molehill by sensationally revealing a "shocking secret" that is neither shocking nor secret. Personally, I think that a lot of consumers just prefer not to think about how meat ends up on their plate and recoil at any discussion of the process that turns live animals into hamburger patties.

We really need to be talking about the use of antibiotics as a growth promoter, which is a slow-motion catastrophe that the US regulators are largely ignoring.


After butchering a carcass, you're left with a lot of fatty trimmings with small amounts of meat attached that are uneconomical to recover by hand. If you gently heat the fat trimmings and spin them in a centrifuge, you cleanly separate the lean meat from the fat. That process weakens the cell walls of the muscle fibres, which increases the risk of bacterial growth; to kill the bacteria, ammonium hydroxide gas is used to raise the pH. The FDA deems ammonium hydroxide to be safe, so it is widely used in US food manufacturing as an acidity regulator and antimicrobial agent. Other regulators disagree on the safety of ammonium hydroxide, in which case citric acid is used.

That's a fine sell. Now sell me on, "this is so OK that we should have a statutory right not to ever mention this fact.

Which is to repeat the point that this tug-of-war isn't about "can you do it?" or "is it safe" but "do you even have to say anything?".

The problem is indeed how little consumers can determine about safety once it becomes obvious industry is throwing things all in a giant food processor and then mixing up things that appear simple. It makes people nervous even if, let's say, in this case everything is fine.

Because, suppose, in the case of antibiotics, everything is not fine at all? Do you want the precedent that "hey, once the expert decide everything is OK, then it's decided that things are sooo OK that you aren't allowed to talk about it at all". Which is to say, safe or not, problem or not, it's pink slime. That was what it was called before ABC and that's rather clearly an appropriate term.

And pink slime is shocking because consumers don't know anything. Keep the situation where the real processes of food production are shocking and hidden? Good idea? I believe not.


>That's a fine sell. Now sell me on, "this is so OK that we should have a statutory right not to ever mention this fact.

Food production is really, really complex. If an organic burrito was labelled with every process involved in its production, it would come with a label the size of a telephone directory. Over-labelling is just as problematic as under-labelling, as we have seen with Prop 65; adding more words to a label often actively impedes the ability of a consumer to make meaningful choices. We rely on the regulators to determine what processes and ingredients are sufficiently safe for the food chain and to highlight issues of particular concern.

Some people think that FTLB is unsafe, but they have no real evidence for that claim. It has attracted a vastly disproportionate amount of attention, seemingly only for reasons of squeamishness.

Regulators are not infallible or incorruptible, which is why it is important that they are held to account. If we're quibbling over the labelling of something that's demonstrably fine, we're not talking about the hundred other glaring issues in the US food system that need to be addressed much more urgently.

FTLB is simply irrelevant. It's broadly beneficial, but it's neither good or bad enough to warrant our attention. The grossly disproportionate amount of attention it has attracted is symptomatic of a faddish, panic-driven and deeply irrational approach to food that is entirely unproductive.


> Food production is really, really complex. If an organic burrito was labelled with every process involved in its production, it would come with a label the size of a telephone directory.

I agree with this take in general. But in labelling a product "ground beef", a consumer would consider the ingredients to be beef that is ground. Separating the meat from the fat in trimmings is good (use more of the meat please!), but the process is not grinding. If the market determines "heat-separated ground beef" (or whatever) to be less appealing, then perhaps they're right that it should demand a lower markup.

It's about nomenclature, not safety.


> Separating the meat from the fat in trimmings is good (use more of the meat please!), but the process is not grinding.

What does it mean exactly to be ground? When I look at their product, it looks like it's come out of a meat grinder to me. What does that have to do with the process of separating the fat from the meat which is what is in question here?


> What does it mean exactly to be ground? When I look at their product, it looks like it's come out of a meat grinder to me.

I can show you some incredible fake and inedible food that looks just like the real thing. Appearance isn't really a good measure for what something is.

As for what it means to grind: "To reduce to smaller pieces by crushing with lateral motion." I don't think the process meets any reasonable definition of ground.

I'd probably personally buy it, but I'd really want it to be labeled in some other way.


So the argument here is that it's mislabeled because it wasn't crushed with a lateral motion? And that's misleading to customers?


I think the argument is more that consumers have a very specific idea about what constitutes ground beef: a few specific cuts of beef put through a meat grinder. Full stop.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with using the whole cow so to speak -- people love chicken nuggets and hot dogs -- but you should at least be upfront about the difference. If I tried to pass off a tub of 'pink slime' as ground beef in a kitchen I would would get thrown out.


But the key is that the same cuts are used for this product. They're just separated from the fat more efficiently. It's not a different cut, it's just recovered in a different way. They could then choose to grind it afterward or not, but either way that is something which just affects the final shape/texture of the product and I don't think the mechanics of how it is shaped is what is really bothering people about BPI's product.


It’s not simply recovered in a different way. Send a several pounds to a lab and the difference is easy to detect.

You can argue that said difference is meaningless, but that’s what markets are there to decide and misleading labels rob markets of pricing power by hiding information from consumers.

IMO, it really comes down to planned economics vs free markets. Producers hate free markets as a rule, but avoiding them has real costs.


>What does it mean exactly to be ground?

Not sure what the exact definition would be but I certainly wouldn’t assume it to be ‘ammonia treated slurry flash-frozen on 20ft rollers’. My mind trends toward those old school funnel-top hand-cranked meat grinders when I hear “ground”. Obviously they aren’t hand-cranking the stuff but what I saw on the video on the linked page is far from what I expect when thinking of ground.


From the regulations linked in the article:

‘‘Chopped Beef’’ or ‘‘Ground Beef’’ shall consist of chopped fresh and/or frozen beef with or without seasoning and without the addition of beef fat as such, shall not contain more than 30 percent fat, and shall not contain added water, phosphates, binders, or extenders. When beef cheek meat (trimmed beef cheeks) is used in the preparation of chopped or ground beef, the amount of such cheek meat shall be limited to 25 percent; and if in ex- cess of natural proportions, its presence shall be declared on the label[...].


Food production is really, really complex. If an organic burrito was labelled with every process involved in its production, it would come with a label the size of a telephone directory.

What I am talking about is "doing you have the right know what's happening?" What that is printed on the back of a given label is a different matter, you think?

Some people think that FTLB is unsafe, but they have no evidence for that claim. It has attracted a vastly disproportionate amount of attention, seemingly only for reasons of squeamishness.

Sure, for reasons of squeemishness. Industrial scale food production is complex. Some of the details make people squeemish even if they're safe. Other details make people squeemish and are in fact things to worry about.

The relevant question is should light be able to be shed everywhere. Should industrial be forced to openly defend unappealing but safe practices or should industry have a giant hammer to shut up any mention of things with "bad visuals"?


>What I am talking about is "doing you have the right know what's happening?" What that is printed on the back of a given label is a different matter, you think?

The article we're discussing is about a change in USDA labelling requirements. I'm not really sure what you're talking about.


The article described changes in description regulation but it wasn't about whether "pink slime" had to appear labels, since it never did appear to begin with - "finely textured beef" previously could be mixed with regular ground beef and not labeled. Not it's no longer classified as something different - where it seems reasonably clear this is a somewhat different product.

And this change was essentially just the last push to stop any negative publicity surrounding this product, with the lawsuit again ABC looming prominently. And in the lawsuit, you have liable laws that give steep monetary damages for what we've discussed - pointing to details that are true and "icky" if arguably safe.

Edit: Link to discussion of ABC liable trial from lead article.

https://newfoodeconomy.org/heres-look-pink-slime-trial/

Smells very much of a SLAPP suit imo. See:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_lawsuit_against_publ...


To me the main issue is improper animal husbandry and disgusting slaughterhouse practices directly impact food safety. Grinding beef at the slaughterhouse, using additives even though ammonia is used to make it safer does not make it safe. Bacterial contamination in conventionally processed ground beef is much higher, prevalence of multi-drug resistant bacteria for example was 18% for conventionally processed vs. 6-8% for organic and grass fed respectively. If you scroll to the bottom of the article there are some informative bar graphs. https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/food/how-safe-is-your-gr... Unfortunately for consumers the US Government deregulated the term "grass fed" as of two years ago, therefore it now means there is no legal standard to the term and doesn't really mean anything. You have to trust the supplier. http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/release-usda-revokes-... edit: fixed second link


> If an organic burrito was labelled with every process involved in its production, it would come with a label the size of a telephone directory.

o with one or two 2D barcodes


It's fine that food production is complex. And people don't know every process that goes into making their food. But when an individual process is uncovered in the media, and there is a public outcry, the answer is not to hide it from future oversight under the pretense that people are idiots.

If it's not a big deal, educate people and don't worry that it's not considered "ground beef" (because, come on, it's not).


Some food processes are complex. Ground beef is not. Making it involves taking the meat off the carcass, trimming the fat and putting it through a grinder -- either the industrial sized one or typically smaller sized ones that are found in the meat departments of any reasonable super market.

As far as "but what are we going to do with those other trimmings?" -- go to any Asian or Hispanic supermarket and see for yourself -- they are sold to the same people who buy the ground beef under the name of "Beef trimmings" or "Beef bones" etc.


Which is ok, but when grinding is not involved calling something ground is directly misleading.

If I sell a taco and never mention what it’s made of then sure. It’s only when I sell taco and say this is made from beef but actually mostly contains soy that people are going to get upset. Similarly, if I say ground beef, I would expect actual grinding to be involved not some other process.


Great example with the taco... considering what taco bell and jack in the box make their tacos out of.

I also once ordered from a "Burger" place via grubhub... I'm fairly certain what I got was not beef, but some veggie burger as a social experiment. The rating of the site on grubhub was pretty low after about a month though.

It's pretty easy to deceive while staying within the bounds of legal. In the end, I'd rather the mechanically separated beef over being tricked into soy. I'm allergic to legumes. Not as bad as some people I know with deadly soy allergies, but enough that I notice. For a very long time, before diagnosed, I just got used to throwing up a bit a few times a day after eating.


You could fit that telephone directory in a link from a QR code, and at least one person would read it when it mattered. Individuals don't read privacy policies, but usually one person will.


"pink slime" is shorter than "ground beef" by one letter, so it's kinda hard to see using it as "over-labeling".


But he is of the opinion that whether something is or is not "pink slime" is irrelevant to the safety of the product. Ergo, it is just noise.


> Food production is really, really complex. If an organic burrito was labelled with every process involved in its production, it would come with a label the size of a telephone directory.

Not at all. The fact that this is even being brought up in the argument illustrates how much the industry needs to be regulated.

I had an organic burrito on Thursday because my wife in our old age is obsessed at buying only organic products... largely from a bodega in a Dominican area of Brooklyn -- not even Whole Foods.

The following are the ingredients involved:

1. Flour tortilla -- made in Brooklyn by a small plant that sells them to bodegas and small supermarkets. In a strange coincidence I used to walk by that plant and I talked to the family that owns it. The tortilla contains the following ingredients:

* Flour, Salt, baking soda, pork fat, water

their tortillas keep in a fridge for about a week and half. I asked him why would not he add preservatives? His answer was "Because they cost money and tortillas dont taste as good. Mine are a bit more expensive than the ones from giant companies but I make a lot more money than them"

* Ground beef ( could be organic )

She buys it from the butcher that grinds it on premises or at Whole Foods or I buy a whole 30 lb of sirloin and grind it myself.

* Dried beans ( could be organic )

* Rice ( could be organic )

* Tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, radish, jalapeno, cucumbers, avocado, limes ( all could be organic )

* Cumin, salt, pepper

* Sour cream ( mostly organic but definitely that as the totality has the following ingredient list: milk, enzymes )

That's what an organic burrito looks like. If you are on a west coast, especially in SF it would be called "Mission Burrito". Cheap as hell because it has no extra process inputs. Qdoba and Chipotle manage to make gobs of money selling them: because their COG on one are about $2.50.


Where did the wheat come from? What chemicals and microbes were in the soil and water that the wheat grew in? What substances have been intentionally added to the soil and water? What are the genetic traits of that wheat and how have they been altered? What was added or removed from the wheat when it was processed into flour? What contamination might have happened during the journey from field to plate? How was the chemical composition of the wheat affected by the specific processes used during the production of the tortilla?

Each of those questions has a long, complicated and potentially uncertain answer. At any stage in that process, that plain and simple flour could become seriously toxic. The same applies to every ingredient in the burrito, with a far longer list of questions for meat and dairy products.

"Simple" is rarely simple and "natural" is often far from safe. Organic vegetables are frequently severely contaminated with dangerous bacteria due to inappropriate processing of organic fertiliser or contaminated groundwater. Some aquifers have dangerously high levels of naturally occurring arsenic, rendering the surrounding land unsuitable for many types of agriculture. A lot of common cooking and handling processes can produce toxic chemicals or drastically increase the risk of bacterial contamination. There are a million different ways for food production to go badly wrong.

If you spent every waking moment of the next five years trying to understand precisely what went into that grocery store burrito, you'd still come up short. The simplest of ingredients is still immensely complex. Our food chain is built on trust; trust in the farmer, trust in the distributor, trust in the manufacturer, trust in the retailer. That chain of trust is held together by regulation. You as a consumer are almost entirely powerless, because you don't have the means to validate the claims being made by anyone in that chain. That's an uncomfortable thought, but it's true and it's why evidence-based regulation and effective enforcement are so vital.


So from "organic burrito" being complicated we are down to single ingredient being complicated.

USDA certified 100% organic flour is super simple. It pretty much requires that every single step in a process take only USDA certified 100% organic inputs.

The really funny part is that the parent's comment sound like it was written by the old food giants whose lunch was being eaten by the organic food companies -- the ones that the old giants are buying for hundreds of million dollars because they can't figure out that the fewer ingredients there are and the fewer processes there are the fewer problems there would be.

Food is like code. The fewer lines of code, the fewer bugs. The fewer libraries, the fewer bugs.


> 1. Flour tortilla -- made in Brooklyn by a small plant that sells them to bodegas and small supermarkets. In a strange coincidence I used to walk by that plant and I talked to the family that owns it. The tortilla contains the following ingredients:

> * Flour, Salt, baking soda, pork fat, water

What's in the flour? Is it bleached? Treated with a maturing agent? (Most AP flour in the US has been treated with both.) Has it been enriched to replace nutrients lost in the processing?


The person to whom I replied was talking about "organic burrito" which is either USDA certified 100% organic or an irrelevant label. If it is USDA certified 100% organic it has strict rules for every component that goes into it.


I believe the standard for restaurant food is that the food itself should be 1/3 of the purchase price. Which looks to be right on target, since I think a burrito at least around here is usually about $7.50


"Pink slime" is not a useful term: "slime" doesn't convey anything concrete and "pink" stops being accurate when it's cooked.

Your argument about a statutory right not to mention things confuses me. Isn't that generally true of food production? You don't sell "eggs from caged, unhappy chickens who live their brief miserable lives in their own poop," you sell "eggs," and perhaps "cage-free eggs." You don't sell "ground beef from a cow that was stun-gunned and then sliced apart while potentially still conscious," you buy "ground beef," or perhaps ground beef with a kosher or halal slaughtering certification.

If your dispute is with the word "ground," will you be happy to call it just "beef"? It's not anything that wouldn't be in an unprocessed cut of meat from the butcher, and I'd certainly expect that to be called "beef" too.

(A note on my motivation: As a customer I worry my prices went up when fast food restaurants started avoiding "pink slime" for FUD reasons, without measurably improving the quality, taste, healthiness, or truthfulness of my burgers.)


Fine as far as it goes.

I would assert there is less difference between sirloin and skirt steak than there is between ground beef and LFTB.

It’s illegal to claim that skirt steak is sirloin. Why should it be legal to call LFTB ground beef?


Don’t you think you could tell the difference between a sirloin steak and skirt steak? Totally different shape, texture, level of fat, and flavor. But not sure one could tell ground beef (no regulation on what cuts are used: could be chuck, brisket, a mix) from the same ground beef with some LFTB mixed in.


It’s really shocking to me, and I’ve eaten lots and lots of meat (including beef) from animals raised and then killed by my close relatives. It’s only that my grand-parents weren’t using a centrifugal thingie to get the most out of the cow they had just sacrificed, and ammonium hydroxide might have been from an alien planet to them. The way we industrially process meat is shocking, yes.


And isn't it great that we have figured out ways to efficiently use more of the resources we have available?

The alternative is we just throw it away and raise more cows, using far more resources.


> It’s only that my grand-parents weren’t using a centrifugal thingie

Did our other close relatives use the centrifugal thingie while processing the meat from animals they raised and killed?


Wanted to not repeat the same word in two consecutive phrases, hence my not-perfect choice of words, but to answer your question: no, afaik all the relatives that I know who had killed their meat didn’t use any industrial-like tools to process it.


Seems pretty straightforward. Grind and heat up meat trimmings, spin it to squeeze the heated fat out. Add citric acid as a preservative, flavour it with some spices, freeze an you have nice bit of fairly lean meat you wouldn't otherwise have. Nothing that couldn't be done at home. I wonder how fast it needs to spin.


> sensationally revealing a "shocking secret" that is neither shocking nor secret

In which case, what's the problem simply labelling meat that has been through this complex mechanical and chemical process? Let consumers choose from a position of awareness. Allowing it to all be labelled the same as meat that has simply been through a mincer is industry burying it for easier profit.

Thankfully the EU chose to ban these ammonia treated processed products, though industry is working quite hard to find loopholes to sell us a product we won't buy knowingly.

I'm slightly entertained to learn that what the USDA defines as "lean" at 22.5% is higher fat than the cheap higher fat mince (20%) in UK supermarkets. Lean here would normally be 10 or sometimes even 5%.

Fully agree the antibiotic abuse needs to be resolved though.


Lean in US supermarkets tends to be, as you said, 10 or sometimes even 5%. I buy 9% because I've found lower than that impacts the taste too much.


Really appreciate the calm, thoughtful, and informed devil's advocate perspective, we need more of that for meaningful discussions.

> We really need to be talking about the use of antibiotics as a growth promoter

I don't have fully formed views on this so I'm curious...

Are your concerns about antibiotics based on a fear of reduced effectiveness of human medicines? A cursory search makes it look like significant chunk of animal antibiotics are ionophores, which are entirely different from what's used in human medicine... maybe you have a different concern?

Are you ok with ionophores? Or if not, how do you propose limiting the impact of coccidiosis, which seems widely prevalent in poultry and leads to massive gut damage and animal suffering if not treated prophylactically?

Your point on 'pink slime' seems to be that once you dig beyond the headlines, food regulation and safety issues are far more complicated than the bumper stickers.

Not so with animal antibiotics? Or is your concern with those similarly more nuanced than most of the popular complaints?


>Are your concerns about antibiotics based on a fear of reduced effectiveness of human medicines?

Yes. Over 60% of the antibiotics given to livestock are medically important to humans. There's clear evidence that this is translating into increased antibiotic-resistant infections in both livestock and humans. The FDA have implemented the Veterinary Feed Directive, but these regulations are light-touch compared to the EU and have some fairly glaring loopholes.

There's a legitimate debate about the use of ionophores, but medically important antibiotics are all too often used as a sticking-plaster to ameliorate the effects of poor animal husbandry. If you're keeping huge numbers of animals in cramped and unsanitary conditions, you should really fix that issue before you start routinely dumping lincomycin or penicillin into feed. The use of medically important antibiotics purely for the purposes of growth promotion is both widespread and unjustifiable.

The problem is inarguably worse in the developing world (particularly Asia) but the US should really be a leader rather than a follower on this issue. The WHO have issued clear guidelines on preventing antibiotic resistance in agriculture, but the FDA have been dragging their heels on actually implementing those guidelines in an effective manner.

Other countries (particularly the EU) have implemented relatively strict controls with no real impact on animal welfare and fairly marginal economic impact. Even if you doubt the strength of the evidence, the risk/reward calculus strongly points towards heavy restrictions on the use of medically important antibiotics in livestock; slightly cheaper meat is a pretty poor upside compared to the risk of an antibiotic-resistant epidemic.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5...

https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/258970/9789...


Mostly agreed... To me, it's not so dissimilar to the processing of a lot of other foods... segmenting citrus for pre-pealed/canned versions or handling/processing of cashews or even how black olives are express-ripened beyond nature.

While, personally, I feel that lean meats are wholly unnatural and fattier cuts/grounds should be preferred, I'm not sure there's a lot to get worked up about. The low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-salt diet trends are probably the single worst trends to happen to american health. The issues around antibiotics are also huge.

For the most part, people are far better off avoiding refined sugars, grains and refined vegetable oils. If most people did that, without any other measures taken, things would be a lot better. Not eating processed meat in general not withstanding.


You seem quite informed on the subject — do you have an opinion as to whether meats labeled 'raised without antibiotics' or 'no hormones added' are any better or worse than conventional?


So if I want to eat nice meat cuts ground up, without getting slime, what do I do?


In Canada, you can go to a local grocery store or meat shop and choose meat cuts and have them grind them for you on the spot.


In the US too, all major grocery stores in my area you can ask them to grind up a chuck roast or any cut of meat and they will. It costs a little more depending on the price of the cut you select.


Go to a grocery store or meat shop which does their own grinding. The pink slime processing is only economical at the hugest industrial scales. Anything processed at a smaller, more local scale won't have that.


My mom had a crank operated grinder that was mainly for making sausage but worked pretty well. Where it came from is relegated to the forgotten past.


> So if I want to eat nice meat cuts ground up, without getting slime, what do I do?

(1) buy a meat grinder, or

(2) go to a butcher (often even a grocery store butcher) that lets you select a cut and have it ground.

That's true even without the slime issue, because “ground beef” isn't coming from “nice cuts” with Abby particular consistency.


You want ground ${Specific-cut-name}

ground sirloin

ground chuck

ground round

etc.


Know your farmer.


Given how bad ground beef is for your health you're better off swapping it for ground chicken / quorn / lentils.

I've personally largely switched to veggie ingredients for Lasagne and Moussaka. That was for taste reasons too but the health benefits are a nice bonus ;)


I'm surprised that I'm getting so many downvotes for this post? Are people so scared by even the mention of eating a meal without meat?

I eat a healthy and well balanced diet and I honestly don't understand that way of thinking from my fellow carnivores.


It’s because “don’t eat ground beef” isn’t a useful answer to the question “how do I best select ground beef”. There may be very good reasons to swap it out for chicken and veg, but this isn’t the place to bring it up.


The idiom "it's best not to watch the sausage being made" comes to mind, here.


If you know of a more informative article we can certainly change the URL again.


Why is this supposed to upset me? If we're going to keep eating animals (and that sure is my plan), we shouldn't give ourselves the luxury of getting squicked out over using the whole animal.

If you're picky about what's in your ground beef, find a butcher you trust, or grind your own.


>Why is this supposed to upset me?

The factor that dominates our conversations about food - social class. We have a set of reflexive attitudes about food that are largely uncorrelated with health, nutrition or the environment, but are strongly correlated with the social class of who eats what.

Advanced meat recovery is the ultimate in nose-to-tail eating, allowing us to make use of almost every gram of edible meat on a carcass. If we're going to keep eating meat, we should celebrate advanced meat recovery in the same way that foodies celebrate unfashionable cuts or offal meat. We don't, because recovered meat is cheap and therefore has negative signalling value. The kind of people who buy grass-fed organic beef would never dream of knowingly eating "pink slime" or mechanically separated chicken, despite the obvious environmental and animal welfare case for eating perfectly good meat that would otherwise go to waste.

Lean finely textured beef is no less nutritious than any other kind of lean beef, because it is lean beef. There are possibly legitimate safety concerns about the use of ammonium hydroxide in the processing of lean finely textured beef, but it's widely used elsewhere in the US food industry and readily substituted by citric acid in this application. If you're concerned about health, then argue about ammonium hydroxide, not about modern techniques to get more meat from every carcass.

(Full disclosure: I am a vegetarian for environmental reasons)


It's not honestly lean beef. If it were, it would be red.

It's connective tissue, with a bit of lean beef mixed in. This has a different nutritional profile. There is less iron, and the amino acid proportions are different.

We could call it "pureed tendons, ligaments, defatted fat tissue, cartilage, lean beef, and ammonia or citric acid". That is a long and unwieldy name. The common name, known to consumers, is pink slime.


Yeah although calling it 'slime' is basically just trying to bring about associations with, for instance, rotting meat or vegetables (which often end up with a slimy texture) for the sake of shocking people and bringing in an audience of predominantly more well off people who "would never eat that".

So rather than give it a name which is deliberately off-putting it's probably better to give it something vaguely neutral and otherwise let it stand on its own merits, whatever they may be.


People eat okra, escargot (snails), and natto. All of those have slime.

The name "pink slime" isn't from ABC. It's from an FDA employee who got to examine the stuff.


Regardless, we wrap literally everything else in shiny marketing nonsense. Using it to get people to eat the entire edible part of the animal rather than wasting it is kind of a win from an environmental POV. I mean arguably it'd be better if we just stopped eating meat, but that doesn't seem like it'll happen any time soon.


Using "beef" to mean "unspecified bits of cow used as food" isn't exactly butchering the English language.


Using "ground" to mean something that isn't actually run through a grinder, and "ground beef" to mean something the is created differently than what people have called "ground beef" is intentionally misleading. I honestly can't even imagine how anyone can see it any other way; it's baffling to me.


Pink slime is definitely beef, but it's not ground.


Again, that is not true. They are not cognitive tissues but beef. You could call it Processed Beef if you want, but it doesn't have a vastly different nutritional profile.


Guessing you're not a big fan of combination beef pho.


We have a set of reflexive attitudes about food that are largely uncorrelated with health, nutrition or the environment, but are strongly correlated with the social class of who eats what.

I wish this point was brought up more in nutrition discussions. Most of these recent fad diets like keto, paleo, and carnivore are beyond the means of most people in the world. So even if we accept, for the sake of argument (which I don't), that they have nutritional advantages there should be a giant asterisk at the end of the argument.


keto a fad diet? It's been around since the 1920s...


Fad not as in "something that will go out of fashion quickly", but as "of questionable value, that people pick out of peer suggestions/fashion". Whether the latter is recurring and long term doesn't mean much.

All kinds of non-diet fads come and go too, even bellbottoms made a couple of comebacks in the decades since the late 60s.


For treating epileptics yes, not as a diet recommended for general use.

https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/treating-seizures-and-epileps...


“Not a diet recommended for general use” can be legitimately said of many defined diets and can DEFINITELY be said of the actual eating habits of most western people.

Keto (i.e. any diet that triggers ketones) is a compelling option for numerous reasons, not just epileptics. It’s definitely not a good default for the wider population. And it is of course environmentally and economically inefficient. But ketogenisis is a reality of our biochemistry and shouldn’t be dismissed in the same way as other diets.


Replace the word fad with popular if that works better for you. There has definitely been a lot of buzz around it lately.


I agree. It’s true of many (all?) diets that its proponents tend to overestimate the applicability of any one diet to all people.

Dietary science is at its infancy. Contrary to what most people would assume, we have mountains of anecdotes, mountains of opinions, and very few hard facts. Navigating diet from a fact-first, science-first perspective is deeply frustrating.


'Protein is more filling' is also a part of our biochemistry but I'd still be ok with carnivore diet being called a fad diet


You can do a keto diet without eating meat.


Keto isn’t a high protein diet.


yeah, it wasn't recommended because for treating epilepsy they were using a powdered meal replacement (like soylent) and were missing some essential ingredients like phosphorus.

it's absolutely a diet that can work for anybody, it does require a fair amount of reading though.


I know. I'm not debating the merits of it, I'm just saying it wasn't a popular diet for the average Joe until recently.


well maybe the reason it's growing in popularity is the fact that generally accepted medical and regulatory advice has been idiotic, focused on reducing fats and replacing them with sugars and carbs which resulted in obesity and diabetic epidemic?

that fad lasted for 50 years, taking that into account it's probably too early to call keto a fad - i barely meet people who even know about it, let alone practice rigorously for any prolonged amount of time.


Is this what it has come to? Accusing of classism the people upset that food labeling regulations are getting slowly dismantled?

Please consider that using the whole animal is a different thing to labeling the resulting product however they want.


A lot of people decided that LFTB was horrible stuff, based on no real evidence other than the fact that it's cheap. We still have no real evidence that LFTB is materially less nutritious or less safe than conventionally recovered scraps used in minced beef. I'm not convinced that LFTB is sufficiently different to conventional minced beef to warrant specific labelling; we don't expect every ingredient to come with a precise description of how it was processed, despite the very substantial transformations that occur during e.g. flour processing.

Classism in food is absolutely endemic. A slightly facile but still important example is this paper from the BMJ in 2012. It analysed the nutritional content of 100 supermarket packaged meals and 100 recipes by popular British TV chefs. It found that the ready-made meals contained significantly fewer calories, less fat and more fibre than the recipes. We judge people for living on a diet of microwaveable meals, but switching to home-cooked meals might actually be a retrograde step in terms of nutrition if they follow the recipes of Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson.

Something feels intuitively wrong about that conclusion; that feeling is implicit classism.

https://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e7607


>> We still have no real evidence that LFTB is materially less nutritious or less safe than conventionally recovered scraps used in minced beef

Except you're flipping the burden of proof. Food product experiments aren't default-safe until proven otherwise.

Class is a red-herring. Wealthy people eat pesticide-free, grass-fed, organic, bpa-free, healthier, or low-preservative fresh food not to signal, but because they are risk-averse.

All food labels should contain exact information on what the product is in these respects, next to the ingredients and nutrition information.


> we don't expect every ingredient to come with a precise description of how it was processed, despite the very substantial transformations that occur during e.g. flour processing.

I expect this, but I've been disappointed at how we are doing so far as a society.


What feels wrong is that "fewer calories, less fat and more fibre" doesn't more nutritious to me - it sounds like cardboard. There's a lot more to nutrition than the (harmful) "fat = bad" meme. In the general case, home-cooked food, made from raw vegetables etc, definitely isn't less healthy than processed food.

Nor do I understand the classism argument - cooking food from raw is enormously cheaper. Maybe it's different in America, but in the UK £10 worth of ready meals will feed you for a few meals, while £10 worth of judiciously selected ingredients will feed you for a week.


It's projection. The real class conflict in play here is that the meat that is well-established as safe and healthy for consumption - as far as meat goes - is only affordable for the affluent. Everyone else has to eat meat that is processed so as to obscure its origins and make it more primarily amenable to storage, transportation, and, ultimately, sale. And not primarily, you know, health.


The FDA have deemed LFTB to be safe. Several other regulators apply restrictions on the use of ammonia in food processing, but deem FTB processed using citric acid to be safe. Do you have evidence that putting beef scraps in a centrifuge to separate meat from fat is dangerous? Do you have evidence to show that the resulting meat is in any way less nutritious or less safe than conventionally recovered meat?

We know that many species of fish contain potentially toxic levels of mercury. The FDA advises pregnant and nursing mothers to avoid those species of fish to minimise the risk of brain damage to their child. Why is there no stigma about eating swordfish or marlin? Why does a plump, juicy, expensive fillet of bigeye tuna seem intuitively more healthy than a Filet O' Fish, when only the former contains hazardous levels of heavy metals?


Because it's tastier and less processed, more natural. How well that correlates with being healthy is another matter, but I really have no idea where you're getting classism. No one thinks "Mmmm, what an expensive piece of meat. I bet the poors can't afford it - I'm buying it!"


I've lived in poverty. Following poverty, I thought your straw man's thought. I'm pretty sure I said it out loud.

While living in poverty, I knew that more expensive meat was better tasting, and better for me. The pink-slime level of meat products I could sometimes afford caused unpleasant GI symptoms which unprocessed meat didn't. I learned to avoid the cheap meat products and experienced intermittent anemia instead. Even the raw ingredients of pink slime, like tendons and cartilage, cost an order of magnitude more than pink slime products, so I went without.

Lack of access to a minimally adequate variety of affordable nutrition is a class problem.


I must have expressed myself poorly. I absolutely agree that access to adequate nutrition is a class problem. What I disagree with is the notion that our food preferences are shaped mostly by considerations of class. I.e. that we desire certain foods because they signal that we are rich, not because they're tasty and healthy and 'natural'. I'm sure that might be true for some people, but not for the vast majority.


Ground beef is such an ambiguous, broad-brush term that it couldn’t not include this.


I just wanted to say I've found your comments throughout this thread to be valuable and thoughtful. Reminds me why it's worth my time reading HN every now and then.


This is very dishonest.

Pink slime contains connective tissue and muscle. There's no way it's equivalent in terms of nutritional value to actual meat. And don't forget it's treated with ammonia, which is the reason it's banned in the first world.


Um, you know 'meat' = muscle, right?


A ribeye steak is comprised of connective tissue and muscle. Of course it's the same nutritionally, because it's the same stuff.


That's not how mass markets work, though. This act actually removes poor people's choices.

In the search for efficiency, the market for X bifurcates into two extremes: the cheapest thing that can be called X, and the boutique specialist X.

If you live in a poor to middling area, the chances are you only have the cheapest X available to you. Never mind about boutique X being more expensive - it's probably in a completely different part of town. If you have a car, you might be able to make a trip to where they have boutique X - but you might not even have time. (I know that's the biggest limitation on me visiting a butcher - it needs to be something really special.)

If the cheapest X that can be called X has its quality bar raised, then industry can focus on meeting that bar efficiently. And if you lower the bar, then everyone who's making something slightly higher quality will start losing business, until everything is shit.

This applies not just to beef, but bread, restaurants, clothes, consumer goods, etc.

The effect is especially pernicious in areas where branding isn't prevalent. It's for reasons like this that AOC/DOP/PDO etc. exist in Europe, for example - otherwise you'd get random cheese factories trying to sell their wax shavings as Parmesan.

IMO it would be fine to sell "pink slime" as a separate category of meat product, just not as ground beef. I grew up poor - at times, we were vegetarian not by choice, but because meat was too expensive. We never fell back to cheap hamburgers of dubious origin and low meat %. That's why this act removes poor people's choice.


> find a butcher you trust, or grind your own.

Or you could not allow meat scraps to be called ground beef and trust all ground beef that you buy.

For context this meat wasn’t waste it was used for other products. But by allowing it to be called ground beef it is now more valuable.


> For context this meat wasn’t waste it was used for other products.

It was used for other products, like ground beef.


This is why I haaaaaaaaate the Jamie Oliver chicken nuggets video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKwL5G5HbGA

Except for the part where the kids totally no sell his smug act and he just stands there dumbstruck. Those chicken trimmings are... chicken. Human history is the history of us figuring out how to extract more edible bits from the animal than our jaws can along (that's how we got soup, among a lot of other things). The idea that we should only eat the most presentable primal cuts of the animal is bizarre and weird to me.


Besides, it all start with killing animal and digging into its corpse. I don't see any high horse to be sat on.


LOL. Nice work kids. Where does that guy think soup stock, sausages, etc. come from?

In any event, according to web sleuthing typical chicken patties/nuggets are not made from mechanically separated chicken, which instead mostly goes into bologna, hot dogs, and the like.


Find it kind of funny too that some of the same people that find pink slime, chicken nuggets disgusting are the same people that will suck meat off ribs and eat the bone marrow like its butter.


The issue here is that the government doesn’t force food makers to distinguish a whole muscle ground into mince from 100,000 scraps soaked in Mr. Clean in a pressure cooker.


They sure would so your argument sort of breaks down here because while you are implying they’re soaking this in Mr Clean that’s not what’s happening.


It’s ammonia. Mr Clean is ammonia.


Because when I buy ground beef, I want ground beef. I don't want mechanically separated slime. It is false advertising to call it ground beef. It is as dishonest as putting horse meat into ground beef and calling it 100% ground beef even if people couldn't tell the difference.


I guess people are worried about uneducated and poor who don't or can't think about the difference. For example, where fast food chains previously might be unhealthy but still OK, this might tip the scales closer towards not OK. If you're knowledgeable enough to make an informed decision and also can afford to take the time to grind your own meat, people probably aren't worried about you.


What are the bad consequences of this "pink slime"? Is it worse for you than a ribeye steak?

What makes it not OK?


It is much higher in fat, and much lower in protein than meat. It also contains pulverized bone, nerve tissue and more.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanically_separated_meat

This puree includes bone, bone marrow, skin, nerves, blood vessels, and the scraps of meat remaining on the bones. The resulting product is a blend primarily consisting of tissues not generally considered meat along with a much smaller amount of actual meat (muscle tissue).

Of course the final product depends on how it’s processed. A lot of the time the stuff is centrifuged to remove fat, in which case it’s used as filler. If you’ve ever eaten a cheap chicken nugget and tasted something off, that’s what it is. So nutrition aside it’s disgusting, and is generally only found in heavily processed foods with a ton of salt and sugar in them; nothing less will make it palatable.

You’re never going to find the stuff in any food that isn’t terrible for you. If you have concerns about prion diseases like BSE then it’s also a concern, since the processing is unlikely to destroy prions.


I don't think that's what this is. In fact, the particular product in question is leaner than ground beef, and added to ground beef to get it qualified as "lean". If it's not in the posted article, it's in the linked article (which I cited in my original comment).


As I said, A lot of the time the stuff is centrifuged to remove fat, in which case it’s used as filler.

It’s the same product, it’s just processed more, but it’s taken off the carcass the same way, and you still get to enjoy that lovely spinal cord. Colloquially the full fat product is “white slime” and the centrifuged and ammoniated product is “pink slime”.


It is not the same product, at all. The linked Wikipedia article that you posted quotes the USDA regulations which are clear that mechanically separated beef is not permitted for human consumption.

On the contrary, "pink slime", or lean finely textured beef, is made from the scraps and leftovers of (non-mechanically separated) beef, and is put into ground beef for humans.


Right, the difference between the two products is that the latter is the former, centrifuged and ammoniated.


It is not the same product. The product you mentioned are used in different areas for different purpose.


No, it's the same thing. The beef trimmings they're referring to in the article are those left on the carcass after the meat has been removed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_meat_recovery


I realize the HackerNews guidelines disallow comments that begin with "Did you even read the article?!", but I have to wonder if that prohibition applies to comments that themselves post a link that directly contradicts what is being argued.

That exact link you posted states:

> USDA regulations for procurement of frozen fresh ground beef products state that "Beef that is mechanically separated from bone with automatic deboning systems, advanced lean (meat) recovery (AMR) systems or powered knives, will not be allowed".

Mechanically separated meat is NOT the same thing as "pink slime", and the specific reasons that MSM is not allowed for humans (danger of mad cow disease) does not apply to "pink slime".


Dude.. you're commenting on an article right now that changes that rule.

BPI uses AMR to recover the scraps. You can now call it ground beef. That's what we're all talking about it. That's what the article is about.


> BPI uses AMR to recover the scraps. You can now call it ground beef. That's what we're all talking about it. That's what the article is about.

No, that's not what we're all talking about. From the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_meat_recovery article that you posted:

> Although some sources claim AMR systems use ammonia (or anhydrous ammonia, ammonia hydroxide, etc.) to treat the meat, this appears to be due to confusion between AMR and the production of lean finely textured beef (LFTB, commonly referred to as pink slime).[citation needed] LFTB is in fact treated with ammonia,[4] and so is substantially more restricted than most AMR products.


No, the rule is about labeling. Not what is allowed for human consumption.

FTA:

>As cattle carcasses are turned into steaks at a processing plant, knife-wielding workers cut fatty edges off the meat. These carcass cuttings, or “trim”—about 1/3 of each animal’s weight —contain small portions of edible meat, which can be used to make ground beef.


ANR / MRM is allowed in human food in this US. The Wikipedia link the the parent comment states, with regard to US regulation:

Furthermore, all AMR-processed product from cattle more than 30 months old now is prohibited from being used for food, and such product from younger cattle and from other livestock species also is prohibited if it contains CNS material.


> This puree includes bone, bone marrow, skin, nerves, blood vessels, and the scraps of meat remaining on the bones.

Is there something inherently wrong with eating any of this stuff?

People eat heart, liver, kidney. I can’t see how bone and skin, or blood vessels could be bad for you.


Nerve tissues can carry prion diseases. Here's a study[1] on bovine prions in peripheral nerve tissue.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3321908/


Genuine question: does regular muscle meat contain any nerves? I was under the impression all of our muscles contain efferent neurons to deliver motor control signals and afferent neurons to send back stretch reception signals / proprioception / pain.

But I wouldn't know exactly where these nerve fibres are located and if they're completely removed from regular cuts of meat.

Another question is: do the prions accumulate and remain in the main body (soma) of the nerve cell, or do the prions diffuse throughout the axons and dendrites of the nerve cells.

If prions remain within the soma, then removing nerve ganglia from products intended for human consumption or animal feed would, one supposes, limit the spread of prions.


I'm not sure of the answers to either of your questions, sorry. I'm just aware that bones contain a high amount of nerve tissue, and therefore have a higher probability of transferring prions to whomever consumes them.


Read the article you linked more carefully. MSM from cattle cannot be sold for human consumption in the UK or US.


That's a totally different product than pink slime. Your first statement alone is incorrect.


I don't think it even has anything to do with being uneducated or poor, although they will likely be hit the hardest because they cannot shop at the fancy organic markets / Whole Foods where this sort of business practice is not even considered.

I should be able to shop at a normal grocery store and know what I'm purchasing, regardless of wealth or education level.


I am fascinated with your ability to be contrarian! But are you really sure you can't understand why it should upset you?

We generalise a large part of your understanding of the world down to words. When someone (in this case UDSA) redefines ground beef to mean something else that you find icky, of yourself you are upset.

I do think this is a problem since redefining foodstuffs will eventually lead to people distrusting the whole industry.

Ground beef should be parts of beef that have been ground down. Not slabs of defatted chemically treated leftovers. It is a redefinition of a phrase that is directly misleading to customers.

I am all for eating everything from dead animals, if we are to continue eating them. People are fricking squeamish.


If you're picky about what's in your ground beef, find a butcher you trust, or grind your own.

A lot of people lack the education to know that many more lack the time, energy and money to make it work. I guess the answer why this should upset you is that it shouldn’t, unless you’re troubled by empathy as many of us are.


It's still beef though. If I'm getting a burger at a McDonald's or something, this is fine.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanically_separated_meat#...

Concerns were raised again when the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) epidemic, commonly known as "mad cow disease", occurred in the United Kingdom in 1986. Since bits of the spinal cord (the part most likely to be carrying the BSE prion)[4][5] often got mixed in with the rest of the meat, products using mechanically separated meat taken from the carcasses of bovines were at higher risk for transmitting BSE to humans.

Given how resilient prions are I’d be pretty damned wary of eating purées of nerve tissue.


The term “pink slime” is actually a derogatory one for all the little cuttings and “trim” that appear when cattle carcasses are being sliced up into steaks. Mechanically separated beef has been illegal in the USA since 2004 and I don't see that this ruling changes that. Please show me a source with this interpretation.


Your link also says that, as of 2004, the USDA considers mechanically separated beef prohibited for use in human food.

So I'm guessing that means the "pink slime" this article is talking about is something else?


No, it’s the same product that has undergone additional steps to make it legal to serve to humans. The critical step is typically the application of ammonia, and less often, citric acid. Often the product is defatted prior to this step, but the only legal distinction is the use of a germicidal agent.


You keep posting this, but your own links are clear that this is false.

Mechanically separated meat is not allowed for human consumption specifically because of the danger of potential-prion-containing nerve tissue entering the product. Importantly, these prions are extremely difficult to deactivate, and thus it wouldn't make sense to allow this to be served to humans, no matter what further processing happened.

Here is a link from snopes that clarifies the difference: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/legal-separation/

> A meat product known as “boneless lean beef trimmings” (BLBT) or “lean finely textured beef,” pejoratively referred to as “pink slime,” is often confused with mechanically separated meat, although it is produced by a different process. In order to extract pricer lean beef from less valuable, fattier trimmings, centrifuges are used to separate the fat out of the meat trimmings, and the resulting lean beef is then squeezed through small tubes, where it is exposed to a small amount of ammonia gas, producing a pinkish substance. Unlike MSM, lean beef trimmings are legal for sale in the U.S., although they are mixed in with other meat products (usually ground beef) and generally do not comprise more than 25 percent of the final meat products purchased by end consumers.


As far as I can tell, "mechanically separated meat" is meat that's been mechanically separated from bones by a grinding process. The prion fears are because some of the bone gets in, and some of the bone contains nerve tissue.

The article says that pink slime is instead made from beef trimmings, which does not involve that grinding process.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_meat_recovery

> The meat produced in this manner can contain no more than 150(±30) milligrams of calcium per 200 grams product, as calcium in such high concentrations in the product would be indicative of bone being mixed with the meat. Products that exceed the calcium content limit must instead be labeled "mechanically separated beef or pork" in the ingredients statement.


It’s not ground beef. There is no grinder grinding up chunks of meat which is the definition of ground beef. It’s mechanically separated meat and should be called that not ground beef.


You're not the first person in this thread to claim that it's "mechanically separated". Do you have a source for this?


Straight from the producers of pink slime.

http://www.beefusa.org/CMDocs/BeefUSA/Resources/AMI%20Fact%2...


Mechanically separated beef has a specific definition, and this is not that. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanically_separated_meat#...


Then call centrifugal separated beef. It isn’t ground beef.


Ok, but it's only separated from the fat. They're not sorting out bone or nerve tissue from the meat. It's like centrifugally-trimmed beef.


You do agree it shouldn’t be called be ground beef?


I wouldn't mind if it were labelled better. But from the consumer point of view, what's the difference? The texture is different and it's been disinfected. Doesn't seem like a huge deal.


> it's been disinfected

Woah... that seems like a huge deal to me


It's considered extremely safe. The disinfectant used is either citric acid or ammonia (and the remaining ammonia residue is not enough to be harmful to humans). It does sound concerning, but it generally is not.


Safety of the disinfectant isn't the issue. It's the care of the food in the process. Ground beef processing needs to be handled with care to prevent it from being contaminated with feces to prevent Ecoli H157 outbreaks. I'd rather my food receive greater care in handling and preventing fecal contamination then just blanket disinfecting it.


I understand the concern wrt E. Coli (I assume you were referring to O157:H7 -- the number after the O refers to the antigen produced by the lipopolysaccharide layer, and H refers to the flaggelar antigen, so H157 is likely an error). Also, the USDA has categorized other E. Coli stains as adulterants: O26, O131, O145, O45, O111, O121.

Also, Salmonella has a tendency to grow in ground production areas and is a concern as well. The fact of the matter is, ammonia disinfection is a tool to combat these threats, and is useful even in instances where proper food handling practices are observed. After all, if ground beef is prepared correctly by the consumer (i.e. cooked to 160F, not cross-contaminated), then it's a moot point anyway. But we still do all of this as a precaution to protect people. And because it's the law.


Only the US puts warnings both at butchers and on packages for meat products. It’s has to do our prevalence of food borne diseases caused by our lax regulation and food handling standards. Europe doesn’t have the large meat borne ecoli outbreaks like the US. They’re outbreaks are through vegetables. You can eat raw hamburger(beef tartar) with little risk of getting sick in Europe. You be foolish to grab ground beef at a US supermarket and it eat it raw.


> Europe doesn’t have the large meat borne ecoli outbreaks like the US. They’re outbreaks are through vegetables. You can eat raw hamburger(beef tartar) with little risk of getting sick in Europe.

Do you have any solid data or can you cite any analysis of per-capita STEC infections, categorized by infection vector, for the US and EU?

Also, steak tartare is made of steak, not trim. I'm not convinced that it makes for a valid comparison.


>If you're picky about what's in your ground beef, find a butcher you trust, or grind your own.

Yeah, god forbid food standards agencies get picky themselves about what's in our food, or at least reserve the traditional names of meats for non traditionally produced / sourced foodstuff.


Well, using the whole animal isn't really the controversial part. In fact that's more or less why ground meat exists.

However you can't just ground pure trimmings as that wouldn't be particularly nice to eat, you need some good meat in there as well. The 'pink slime' described here seems to be some process that separates out additional fat using centrifuges in order to make something that fits the official standards for ground beef without the need to add any good meat. It's highly debatable meat that's been that extensively processed should still be considered ground meat.


Because I depend on the USDA to ensure product safety and transparency.

If anyone wants to buy pink slime, go for it, but I should at least be able to know what I'm buying. This is fraud, and it's aided by the government.


It's totally reasonable to eat meat and still have qualms about its labeling. This is about processed meat being sold as ground beef. I eat both processed meat and ground beef, but they're not the same thing and don't have the same culinary or nutritional value. (Though, you're right that the "slime" label is obnoxious -- at least for anyone who eats, say, hot dogs or bologna.)


I recently saw that they now offer ground beef with less fat at our local supermarket. I assumed that they just put less of the fatty bits inside. Now, I don't live in the US, and I don't know what regulations in Europe say about ground beef, but it does make me hesitate: I absolutely wouldn't have bought the meat if I knew they added pink slime to it to make it less fatty. I'd just buy the fatty ground beef instead.

The problem is not that it shouldn't be allowed -- it just shouldn't pretend to be something it's not.

I literally did not know that the pre-packaged ground meat is different from the ground meat you get at the butcher.


Europe (and Australia) have much higher food standards than the US.


Europe doesn’t allow pink slime. Any meat product requiring it to be disinfected because of potential fecal contamination will not fly in EU.


I think of it more in terms of cheap vs more expensive cuts of meat. I think it's important to signal this on the packaging. In the UK, the process being discussed in this thread is labelled 'mechanically recovered meat' (MRM) on food packaging. For food producers, MRM is much cheaper than other meat which is why you'll often find it used in cheap burgers and ready meals. Many consumers might never look at the ingredients or even know what MRM is. For me, it's still important not to subsume the different processes under one label of ground beef because they are not the same.


I don't think the pink slime being discussed here is MRM, in the sense that it's not removed mechanically (even if lots of machinery and processing is used after the fact).

In the UK, I don't think we have the equivalent of this pink slime, or at least I've never heard of it.

Ground beef in the UK is generally labelled as "beef mince" or "steak mince", where "steak mince" is minced beef produced by mincing whole cuts (such as flank), and "beef mince" can also contain minced trimmings, and generally has a higher fat content.

I have no problem buying either of these. Indeed, sometimes you want a higher fat content, such as when making burgers.

Thr pink slime in the article seems to be something inbetween MRM and trimmings, and I would have a problem with buying it.


I think it's about the right approach, though there's been some push-back from industry lately, as they want 'low pressure' MSM to be categorised the same as normal meat:

https://www.casemine.com/judgement/uk/5a8ff76960d03e7f57eac3...

I can see why they want the 'low pressure' stuff to be differentiated, but it still needs to be indentified in some way on the ingredients list.


I'm mostly concerned about the ammonia used during the process. The ammonia is used to kill off germs due to contamination. Maybe we should just throw away contaminated animal by-product.


No need for concern. High estimates for ammonia residues in LFTB are around 400 ppm. A healthy serving will net you tens of milligrams of extra ammonia. In scientific terms that's approximately jack shit. Your body gets rid of many times that amount every time you urinate. A lot more if you're athletic or eat a high protein diet.


The intentional mislabeling bothers me most, but yeah I'm not so fond of ammonia.

In the human body, ammonia is a lot like alcohol and carbon dioxide: it is a poison that we are well-equipped to remove.

Well, sort of. Just as people with lung trouble have problems removing carbon dioxide, people with kidney trouble have problems removing ammonia. What about people with kidney trouble? Perhaps they deserve a warning label.


As a vegetarian myself, I wouldn't dare make excuses for the beef industry, but your argument here is pretty fucking weak. At the high end, LFTB contains about as much ammonia as a lot of commercial bread, and about half of what's in hard cheese. The increase this causes in your body is just noise compared to what comes from your natural protein metabolism. Google for "lftb ammonia ppm" for some numbers.

So no, please, let's not start slapping ammonia warnings on all of our food.


if you're picky about any of your food, you have to do everything yourself because corporations don't care, and most people don't have time to do that (and the poor can't afford it)... here is one more example: https://abcnews.go.com/US/fake-fish-experts-mislabeling-seaf...


> Why is this supposed to upset me?

So someone can upsell you on ground beef "With No Pink Slime"!


We should applaud it really. It means more meat from fewer animals. Beef production is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions.


But what about meat glue???


Seems fine if it's labeled, but seems borderline fraudulent if it's not.


This conversation shows that plenty of people are uncomfortable with a food process like this. Many of you point out that food is complex, and people are irrational to be squeamish about this particular process.

But how about this? Maybe people wouldn’t eat so much meat if they were more aware of the process behind it? And maybe, given how detrimental meat production had been to the environment, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

So, rather than protecting people by hiding the truth behind the processes that are behind the food they eat, we should be more transparent.

If that means we go back to small farms, local butcheries — something people have been comfortable with for centuries — it would of course raise the cost of meat. But If we hope to address climate change, that absolutely needs to happen.


>So, rather than protecting people by hiding the truth behind the processes that are behind the food they eat, we should be more transparent.

I agree, but in order to be transparent the ingredients and processes would need to be disclosed (ideally on the packaging) and this news seems a step further in the opposite direction.


The funny part of it to me is the cognitive dissonance of people who both believe that a change of less than 1 degree in global mean temperature over a century will destroy the Earth, but also that we'll be terraforming Mars by then.


Posting this snopes link at the top level, because there is a lot of misinformation in these comments: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/legal-separation/

Lean finely textured beef (what is called "pink slime" in the main article) is NOT the same thing, nor it is a further refinement, of mechanically separated meat. Mechanically separated beef, which increases dangers of "mad cow disease" because it can cause neural tissue to be included in the final product, is not allowed for human consumption in the US.


For those who don't have a personal butcher, you might be interested to know...

Many state and county fairs include a livestock show. Often the exhibited animals are auctioned off at the end of the show. The animals are raised and exhibited by youth (4H, FFA, etc). The proceeds go to the (child) owner of the animal.

At our county fair, bidding starts at about $3/# on the hoof. They generally weigh between 1100# and 1500#. Butchers present at the auction take your order on exactly how you want it cut. The seller will show up on your doorstep with it cut, wrapped, and frozen. No charge beyond the bid price. Seller takes care of everything. Cost above market price is tax deductible.

Some of the best beef money can buy. Can help fund college. Swine, lamb, goat, etc might also be available at a show near you. If a whole beef is too much, go in with a group. A group of 4 can end up with 100+# each for less than $1000 a piece.

If this doesn't describe a livestock show near you, shop around. If none of this sounds like your cup of tea, forget I said anything.


When I was young my parents used to buy a side of beef and freeze it, I imagine you can still do this. A side of beef is what it says - the left or right side of the animal, cut up and ready for freezing. Used to be the cheapest way to buy meat. That was in the days of beef for every night time meal, and corned beef sandwiches for lunch, sausages for breakfast :-).

The bones used to be soaked for hours to get all the goodness out of them and make stock. I dont know if this is much different from the reclaimed meat - apart from the ammonia I suppose. Even now I make stock regularly and get all the yummy left over bits in the pot.


Interesting. Do you know what percentage of the animal is edible meat?


Carcass yield for beef is around 63%. A 1200# steer will dress out around 750#. Minus bones takes you down to about 500#.

$4/# on the hoof gets you $9.60/# hamburger. And $9.60/# ribeye.


The "pink slime" story is mostly fake news. ABC News coined the term, and later paid $177 million to settle a lawsuit over it. It was the largest defamation settlement in the history of the United States.

The story took on a life of its own, though. This image[1] became synonymous with "pink slime" (and still appears in a Google image search for the term) even though nobody knows where the image came from. Didn't stop The Young Turks (among others) from associating it with McDonalds, though.

[1] https://janrssor.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/pinkslime.jpg


>The "pink slime" story is mostly fake news. ABC News coined the term, and later paid $177 million to settle a lawsuit over it. It was the largest defamation settlement in the history of the United States.

I'd say this "beef" is fake meat -- whether some court agrees or not (that depends on who has the best lawyers and deeper pockets, not on who has the best food).

I'd be OK with companies being allowed to sell all kinds of crap as foodstuff, if they didn't highjack on existing food labels as it's the regular beef people know to fool consumers and paint a picture.


People have had so much trouble getting over words we use to describe food.

Clearly, when a normal person says "real" or "natural" or "doesn't have chemicals", they mean foods that are (1) made only with ingredients or processes endogenous to living organisms without human intervention or (2) when harvested industrially, the harvest is only mechanical. This seems reasonable to me!

That's why it's okay to eat beef that someone used a machine to separate, but it's not okay to eat beef treated with ammonia. Nothing in nature produces food by treating in with ammonia!

This is reminiscent of the MSG scare. It was never about MSG as an underlying ingredient or racism (everyone loves Chinese food). As Wikipedia says, it's been a component of flavors "as early as 5,500 BCE." What changed is that it was manufactured industrially with "hydrolysis of vegetable proteins with hydrochloric acid to disrupt peptide bonds (1909–1962); direct chemical synthesis with acrylonitrile (1962–1973), and bacterial fermentation (the current method)." Its acceptance and rejection over time follows pretty much precisely how non-endogenous-to-nature the manufacturing process is.

I'm not making a value judgement if non-endogenous-to-nature foods are good or bad. I'm just saying I agree with you, and that it's actually really clear and easy to define scientifically what people mean when they say "natural" versus "fake."

It's just that science pedants are really stubborn. They parrot their "dihydrogen monoxide" and "chemicals" jokes and they don't really get that there's a long history of industrial, non-endogenous-to-nature manufacturing betraying consumers with nasty side effects, pollution and disease. It's really unempathetic to people and it's not good for real scientific goals, like reducing our impact on the environment and improving trust in science.


>Nothing in nature produces food by treating in with ammonia!

We are the only thing in nature that "produces" food - every other species photosynthesises, hunts or grazes. We're the only species that can cook. Is cooking unnatural?

>made only with ingredients or processes endogenous to living organisms without human intervention

Where do you draw the line? Is wheat flour "unnatural" because we winnow off the chaff and grind the grains? Does a chicken leg become "unnatural" if you pluck it and skin it? Does milk become unnatural if you churn it into butter? Does butter become unnatural if you clarify it into ghee?

The whole distinction between "natural" and "unnatural" is meaningless in any practical sense. Either everything we do is "natural" because we're animals, or everything that we do that apes can't is "unnatural". Either only a raw food diet is natural, or everything is natural. There's no logical distinction between the complex chemistry we perform in our kitchens every day and the complex chemistry that occurs in industrial food production, just a vague squeamishness.


No, your are not the only thing in nature that « produces » food. Here is on example but they are many more.

https://modernfarmer.com/2014/04/meet-earths-oldest-farmers-...


None of your examples involve adding a chemical to the food that does not occur naturally already in food.

Most of your examples just involve preparation, which would not make it unnatural.


Cooking. Frying or roasting produce diacetyl, acrylamide and all sorts of other potentially toxic substances that don't naturally occur in the food being cooked.

What about fermentation? The production of cheese or bread produces all sorts of chemicals that don't naturally occur in milk or wheat - are those chemicals "natural"? Does your opinion change if I told you that most monosodium glutamate is produced through industrial fermentation?


I'm not against adding chemicals to food. I was just pointing out flaws in the examples.

We should test foods to the best of our ability to make sure they are safe, but I don't think there should be many restrictions otherwise.


Human breast milk naturally contains ammonia, so it does naturally occur in food:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3934511/

(More when the breast is inflamed, which can affect willingness to suckle, indicating there are levels which affect at least palatability)


When people complain about non endogenous to nature processed foods, they don't bring up stupid as shit examples. It's a painful conversation, yes, because everyone has a hard time having a dialogue with moronic levels of pedantry. Maybe if you weren't calling cooking unnatural, and rather just talked about the merits of what people were really objecting too, it would be easier to communicate.

This isn't Science of Cooking. When you make food in your kitchen, you don't add ammonia to your foods. That's not vague squeamishness. People don't wash their vegetables in a chlorine bath. When they want to ripen their fruit, they put them in a closed container; they don't gas the fruit with a synthetically-derived hormone.

Even if these things are reconstructed exactly by an industrial process, you're not conceding that our definition of equality is enumerative. And funny enough, the reason poisons enter our food supply is that we say, "Well three ways these processes are equivalent are enough ways." "This complies with the regulation, so it must be safe." "We paid an auditor, who checked these boxes." Which in my opinion is the dumbest form of thinking of all. Sometimes, the slow and shitty way, for some intrinsic reason, doesn't harm you!

Obviously nobody is calling cooking unnatural, but if you see things so reductively, so pedantically, you're going to look back at the backflips you were writing years ago and really wonder how you missed the mark there.


[flagged]


> Ammonia was a primary leavening agent for baked goods for centuries.

Listen, I obviously didn't know that ammonia bicarbonate was used as a leavening agent for centuries, or that it was made from deer horns, or whatever. :)

Obviously, I also imagined that when a news article says they use ammonia on the beef, they mean ammonia gas (NH3). I don't fault anyone for thinking that either, like gentle John Oliver. Isn't that what they're saying?

I guess those are two different things, ammonia bicarbonate (the leavening agent) and ammonia gas (the thing they do with deer horns), and ammonia in fish (which is something complicated), or brie or something.

Again, I don't know if they're using ammonia gas on the beef trimmings, but assuming that they are, then you've managed to conflate two different chemicals, which is the exact thing you were passionately trying to avoid.

It really speaks to my point that these things are really difficult to communicate about, and full of traps, so forgive me for the audacity. It's not ignorance and bliss, there are a tremendous amount of people who can talk to each other about the line between cooking and industrial process in intuitive ways that are not at all poorly informed. Maybe not me personally.


> Again, I don't know if they're using ammonia gas on the beef trimmings, but assuming that they are, then you've managed to conflate two different chemicals

No, they are the same chemical for the purposes of this discussion. Any form of ammonia you eat -- whether ammonium bicarbonate or ammonium sulfate in bread, or ammonia residues in meat -- will be found as ammonium hydroxide in your blood. It's the same stuff. And the consequences of that extra ammonia in your body are precisely nothing. A ten ounce serving of pure pink slime (you know you want it) might give you a whopping hundred milligram boost of ammonia. That's 10 to 20 times less ammonia (nitrogen equivalent) than a typical adult pisses out every day.


Edit to my comment above:

My numbers in that comment are a bit off. I looked up my last blood test, and my UUN number was close to 20 g/day. This means that every day my body is producing two hundred times more ammonia than what you'd get eating a big pile of pink slime.

I'm taking pains in this thread to point out that I'm vegetarian, and even aside from that, I'd rather eat out of the trash than make LFTB a regular part of my diet. But that's not because of some imaginary risk from trace ammonia.


Can you tell me what the affect of dietary ammonia are on folks suffering from IBS/IBD? Food spends time in your body before it makes it to your bloodstream.

(I’ve got a kid that already avoids hard cheeses because it upsets him and bread for celiac reasons, so...).


Even at the highest levels allowed by the FDA, dietary ammonia is unlikely to have any noticeable effect. The tens of milligrams of ammonia your child would get from a large serving of cheese is insignificant compared to the ammonia produced by his own gut flora. And it's truly harmless compared to the the toxins he gets from an intestinal microbial overgrowth (such as a pylori infection) which may very well be the most prominent cause of intestinal disorders.

Even at higher levels than those allowed in food, I've seen no evidence that ammonia has any intraluminal effects beyond smooth muscle hypertonia. So even if your child somehow ingested more significant amounts of ammonia, for example from cleaning products, the worst symptoms will be some cramping. Note that I'm not talking about ingestion of concentrated ammonia, which is a corrosive hazard.

Think of it this way: if your child really was affected by dietary ammonia, you'd have to avoid a lot more than hard cheese. Foods containing more ammonia than pink slime include nearly all cheeses, cured meats, peanut butter, onions, mayonnaise, and others. If ammonia really was a problem then we'd all be pretty screwed.


My main point was: if someone is trying to be specific with their words, they start using scientific terms and take the romance out of the intuitive thinking, focusing on chemistry and physics. Food safety, nutrition, production is hugely complex, and therefore isn't intuitive.

Chiding someone for trying to be scientific as being pedantic and then complaining that it's so hard to communicate is really a contradiction of needs. I wish there was a middle ground , but to me OP wasn't even being all that geeky scientific or pedantic. He was stating fairly basic facts. Maybe a more gentle exposition is needed?

I'd suggest Googling "Dr Sarah Taber", she has some great twitter feeds and a podcast on the food industry, very eye opening stuff.


> (1) made only with ingredients or processes endogenous to living organisms without human intervention or (2) when harvested industrially, the harvest is only mechanical.

Well, there goes cooked food.


Or you know, you can always apply the "principle of charity" to a discussion, instead of pedantry.


A gentle nudge to point out the excessive narrowness of that definition of "natural", hoping to broaden the perspective a bit.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


Agreed - it wasn't produced by "grinding beef" so it is not "ground beef". Processed, recovered, etc. would be fine. "Lean, Finely Textured Beef" was fine.

I wouldn't call "almonds steeped in water and filtered with vitamins added" "almond milk" either.


> mostly fake news

Except people generally were rightfully surprised to learn the basic product they thought they understood contained some modern industrial cost-saving additive.

If that's not news, I don't know what is.

> defamation settlement

There's no evidence ABC were acting with malice or their story was untrue. A settlement just means they wanted out of the argument.


I was super disappointed with Jamie Oliver's protest video against pink slime. He threw animal bits into a blender or something, and then put the result into a washing machine with a bunch of ammonia. I like the guy in general but this was awful.


That's the process. Bits of meat with ammonia going around in circles.


No. They spray a mist of ammonia over the meat to disinfect it. It's not an ingredient.


But does the end product contain ammonia? If it does, then it's an ingredient.


Literally every foodstuff will be exposed to bleach and or ammonia due to the washdown procedure in every food processing plant. It may not be present in the same quantities as a product directly treated by such disinfectants but it's still there.


No not at all. A handful of companies in a few products use ammonia. Cheese, chocolate and baked goods. For baked goods they claim it evaporates. Cheap cheeses use it to speed up growth.

Some foods breakdown into ammonia so our bodies can handle it but constant higher levels can cause illness as it overwhelms the body.


Some foods? You mean, like, literally all digestible proteins?

> but constant higher levels can cause illness as it overwhelms the body.

Note that this has nothing to do with the tiny residual levels of ammonia in bread, cheese (both cheap and expensive), and meat products of all kinds. Your body produces and excretes an order of magnitude more ammonia than what you eat directly from food, and will easily do far more than that if you're athletic or eat a lot of extra protein.


The bacteria in your body produce waste ammonia, hydrogen, methaine. Your body using the detoxication channels available to remove them. If the body is unable to you get sick.

Throwing in more ammonia will cause more stress on these pathways. Bodies can only handle so much we try to counteract these with things to detoxify like rest, exercise, other foods, etc.

Eat pink slime through your 20s might be okay the older you get the less your body will be able to handle pink slime for breakfast.


I don't mean to insult you, so let me apologize if this sounds mean, but I can tell you're completely unfamiliar with basic human physiology. What you're saying makes no sense.

Ammonia is your body's way of getting rid of nitrogen, which comes from dietary protein. In general, an adult's body must dispose of as much nitrogen as they consume. This makes sense if you think about it, because humans don't grow forever. You may gain or lose lean mass for periods of time, but in general, nitrogen excretion equals nitrogen intake. The more protein you eat, the more ammonia your body makes, and your body is designed to efficiently process and eliminate large amounts of ammonia, mostly via conversion to urea and renal filtering.

So think about this logically for a moment. Think about how much protein you eat every day. In effect, all of the nitrogen in that protein (an equal amount of nitrogen, rather) is converted to ammonia inside your body. You'll see exactly how much whenever you have your blood tested, in your UUN (Urine Urea Nitrogen) number. My last UUN was about 20 g/day. Healthy athletes commonly excrete up to 40 or 50 grams of nitrogen per day, which means their bodies can safely produce upward of 50 grams of ammonia every day (molar mass ratio of nitrogen to ammonia is about 0.82).

This is perfectly normal and sustainable for your entire life. Renal efficiency declines slowly after middle age, but reasonably high-protein diets are harmless and in many ways beneficial even for elderly people.

Does this make sense? You're worried about eating, say, a hundred milligrams of extra ammonia in your food, while your body is naturally and safely producing hundreds of times more than that every day. Do you see how silly that sounds?

EDIT:

As I pointed out in another comment, I'm a vegetarian, and I reflexively consider LFTB to be approximately equivalent to roadkill. I think there are legitimate risks in mislabeling LFTB, but the trace ammonia content is not one of them.


Ammonia ends up being converted into urea which is then excreted in the urine. That process happens in the liver and the older you are the slower the urea cycle. While an athlete may be able to handle additional pink meat I would question why a high performing athlete would.

The trace amounts you speak of are the maximum amounts before the taste starts to change.


> That process happens in the liver and the older you are the slower the urea cycle.

Not exactly. As I said earlier, renal function degrades slowly in old age. But that has no bearing on the pink slime issue, because normal nitrogen clearance capacity is orders of magnitude greater than dietary ammonia consumption, even in the elderly.

> While an athlete may be able to handle additional pink meat I would question why a high performing athlete would.

No, nitrogen clearance has nothing to do with athleticism or fitness level. All healthy adults can handle high protein diets. Old, young, fit or not; if you don't have impaired renal function or some kind of genetic metabolic disorder, your body can and does safely process hundreds or thousands of times more ammonia than what you eat in your food.

> The trace amounts you speak of are the maximum amounts before the taste starts to change.

No, those are food safety limits set by the FDA. [EDIT: nope, actually those are just some random tested ammonia levels. As a GRAS additive, the FDA actually doesn't directly limit ammonia content of foods or cosmetics. That's how safe it is.]

Look, I'm not telling you to eat pink slime. I certainly won't eat it. But it appears that your opinions are fixed in defiance of logic or evidence. I really think you'd be better off with some more basic knowledge, and maybe a little more willingness to learn.


You are making the case that eating pink slime and consuming ammonia is safe and a welcome thing because the FDA doesn't test for ammonia in food. You are also saying that our ability to detoxify doesn't change with age or fitness level.

Each message you try to put down the other person to change the discussion into a personality based discussion. Personal attacks are a sign of weakness in your position. Using personality doesn't make your position stronger. You'll labeled yourself as an open minded non-meat eating person educated in FDA testing and human anatomy. That's a great profile but let's get back to the facts.

You are arguing that ammonia in food at any level is okay and wouldn't put additional stress on the detoxification process because the fda doesn't test for this?

The FDA does test this in 1974. Ammonium hydroxide has been tested. They have deemed it safe at normal food levels because it is part of the normal human process. That position while technically correct doesn't take into account all of the other stresses including age as factors that slow down these processes. What do you think would happen if you went on a 30 day pink meat challenge?


I'm sorry, I really don't mean to put you down. I'm pointing out that the things you're saying make absolutely no sense. You seem to have no idea what you're talking about, and you seem to have no desire to learn more. Honestly, I feel like I'm talking to a child. Or a bot.

Try reading this out loud, see if it helps: every human body is an ammonia factory, and easily handles thousands of times more ammonia than what is present in foods. The amounts of ammonia found in foods is completely insignificant compared to the ammonia your body naturally produces. If you have a condition that impairs your ability to excrete nitrogen, the only way to lower your blood ammonia level (and urea) is to EAT LESS PROTEIN. Avoiding ammonia has no significant effect. Read all that again to help get it into your brain. And if you don't believe me, just look it up. This isn't difficult stuff; it's basic, basic physiology.

Just for fun, and at the risk of repeating myself:

> You are making the case that eating pink slime and consuming ammonia is safe and a welcome thing because the FDA doesn't test for ammonia in food.

No, not because the FDA says so. Rather, I've explained some basic physiology to you, and provided numbers showing that dietary ammonia has an insignificant effect on the human body. Your body produces hundreds or thousands of times more ammonia than you eat from scary pink slime, every day. You don't have to take my word for it. Go read about it. You'll probably enjoy it.

> You are also saying that our ability to detoxify doesn't change with age or fitness level.

That's half correct. Renal function declines very slowly after middle age in healthy people. I've seen no evidence that hepatic urea production declines with age, nor have I seen evidence that fitness level affects nitrogen conversion or clearance. If you have any evidence to support your opinions, I'd love to see it.

> You are arguing that ammonia in food at any level is okay and wouldn't put additional stress on the detoxification process because the fda doesn't test for this?

No, see my answer above. Or just re-read my earlier comments. The FDA's testing is incidental.

> That position while technically correct doesn't take into account all of the other stresses including age as factors that slow down these processes.

No, age is accounted for investigations of this stuff, because age is part of the standard formula for eGFR, which is a measure of renal efficiency. But that doesn't matter, because if there are any "factors" that impair your ability to excrete nitrogen, then the only thing that will help is to lower your protein consumption, which is where the vast majority of the nitrogen comes from. Any ammonia in food will not have a significant effect.

> What do you think would happen if you went on a 30 day pink meat challenge?

You mean pink slime? Well, try running the numbers! I've given you all the information you need to find the data and work with it, but I'll make it super easy for you. Let's use these assumptions:

1. Let's say you eat a big 10 ounce patty of pink slime every day.

2. Let's say that pink slime contains 400 ppm ammonia, which is at the high end of tested values.

3. Let's use a dietary nitrogen content conversion factor of 16%, which is the standard for meat protein. If you need more info, go read about "Jones factors". It's easy stuff!

Now, you'll need to figure out both the total ammonia content and the total protein content of your pink slime. The ammonia is easy, given assumption 2 above. You can look up the protein content on the internet. Here's a hint: the USDA categorizes pink slime as 18/15 lean ground beef, so you can use the nutrition data for that product in any of the USDA databases.

Convert the ammonia and the protein to equivalent nitrogen content. Use the standard 16% jones factor for the protein.

Now, you'll be able to tell me how much extra ammonia you'd get from the pink slime, versus, for example, a serving of "normal" ground beef with half as much ammonia. Give it a try.

And then, when you have thah number, reflect once again on the fact that it doesn't matter. If you need to lower the ammonia (or urea, more likely) in your blood, eating ground beef instead of pink slime will do you no good. Even if you're old and sick, the ammonia you make from ALL of the protein you eat completely overwhelms all other sources.

Seriously, give those numbers a try. Let me know how it goes.


Ever eat bean sprouts? Those are sanitized with ammonia or bleach. They need moist, warm environments to sprout, and are a breeding ground for listeria.


If you let your steak dry before cooking, do you list the airborne dust and bacteria as ingredients?


The whole issue here isn’t the outside of the meat. The outside is supposed to have bacteria, and be cooked off.

It’s that re-shaped meat is done with meat product that is made up of a lot of outside surface (the part that has all the bacteria) now being smashed to the inside of the product where it won’t get hot enough to kill.

The inside of beef is quite clean, that’s why it’s safe to eat rare. The inside of reshaped meat isn’t safe to eat rare. But consumers don’t know the difference.


I'd be very surprised at someone knowing that beef doesn't need to be cooked internally to as high a temperature _without_ knowing that this isn't true of ground beef. I'm not much of a cook, and have even less exposure to Western cooking, and that's one of the basics you come across when you first started handling meat.


Yes, I agree it’s common knowledge that steak and burger have different cooking requirements.

The issue is if you THINK you have a nice solid real steak with clean insides, but ACTUALLY have a few steak pieces glued together with ground meat purée.

You can’t tell by looking at it. Probably doesn’t taste any different. And the customer is never informed.


I might have misunderstood what we were talking about here: I thought the context was ground beef. I agree that I probably wouldn't assume that my steak wasn't reconstituted.


Isn't that problem shared by all ground beef?


You aren’t supposed to eat ground beef rare. Steaks you can. If you don’t know your steak is partially ground beef, that’s the issue.


I think I'm missing what you're worried about. The article says that pink slime can be called "ground beef", not that it can be called steak.


You are skipping over the end effect. If you think you are buying a steak, but are really buying a steak bits + “ground beef” glue, that’s the problem.

IMO, calling it ground beef is very misleading unless you are farmiliar with the processes used.


But LFTB ("ground beef glue") isn't added to steak. It's added to normal, non-finely-textured beef trim before mixing, grinding, and packaging as ground beef. So this product about which everyone is talking cannot be mistaken by anyone for a steak. The finished product looks, tastes, and behaves as ground beef, and has roughly the same food safety concerns as ground beef.


isn't burger patties usually eaten medium rare?


They shouldn't be. The USDA FSIS recommends cooking ground products (including LFTB) to an internal temperature of 160F. Eating ground or reshaped meats without cooking to proper internal temperatures can be dangerous.

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety...


Successful litigation does not make something true/false. The court, in a case like this, does not rule on the quality of the chemical process or the effects of short/long term human ingestion. Settlement amounts are based on potential damages to sales.


Pink slime is usually shown as chicken which is really called mechanically separated chicken


Ironic that this comes as beef & milk suppliers are complaining about "impossible burgers" simulated meat and almond "milk" stealing their precious terminology.


Ironic that this comment comes in response to an article about a slightly-more-than-normal processed meat product in support of hyper processed replacements for generally lightly processed meat and dairy products.


Almond milk is not hyper processed. You can make it by hand.


I use trimmings from deer and elk meat that I harvest and butcher myself and grind into ground meat. Only difference is those animals are much leaner with little fat and I don’t use a centrifuge with ammonia. If you like burgers and such, I highly recommend grinding your own chuck or nicer cuts of beef.


This isn’t just ground chuck. That’s the whole point.


No, ground chuck != ground beef. I do wish it was common to buy actual ground chuck though.


How is ground chuck not ground beef? Chuck is a cut. You can also get it cubed - it makes great stew meat.


If the article's description of how "pink slime" is made is accurate, I think calling it "ground beef" is a bit disingenuous. It's still "beef", but I think most people would agree that the term "ground beef" implies that the product was created by grinding up raw cuts of beef. "Separated beef" or "lean finely textured beef" or even just "lean beef" all seem like more appropriate names.

I think using "pink slime" as an aditive for ground beef should be fine as long as it is disclosed by the seller. Actually calling it "ground beef" is a step too far, though.

Next we'll start calling pizza a vegetable.

Wait no.


Are these articles a bit misleading about the "trimmings"? My understanding is that a large part of the controversy is because its not little pieces of "meat" its basically the garbage, tendons, pieces of skin, bits of bone, etc. Sure some of it has meat attached, but the difficulty separating the meat bits from the rest is what requires the intensive liquefaction process. The fact that it happens to liquefy some of the normally inedible parts as well is just a bonus.


Generally speaking when everything has been taken off the carcass, including parts used for animal feed, the remains are blasted by high pressure water. The resulting tissue, much of it membranes and other fascia are then collected and processed. It is as you say, not really meat, it’s mostly a collagen slurry. In the cases of turkey and chicken the term used is “mechanically separated.” You can find that term on any Slim-Jim.


This isn't about mechanically separated chicken or turkey, it's about "Lean finely textured beef (LFTB)", which is actually leaner than the ground meat that it gets mixed in with.


...Which is the same product, centrifuged and ammoniated.


LFTB is not made from mechanically separated meat. It is made from normal boneless beef trimmings. As has been pointed out in response to numerous such claims all over this thread.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/documents/meat-... (look on page 26)


If an industry lobby pushes enough, a state "food standards" organization will call anything food.

After all, they don't start with a "let's not divert from regular wholesome food" as a mission statement. So why not allow all kinds of crap as food, as long as they are barely edible and with no obvious side effects?

Worked fine since the 50s in the US, and the quality of the food the average american eats (and their health) keeps improving... /s


Idea: stop worrying about what part of the animal it is, and worry about the important things like whether it got growth hormones, antibiotics for growth and so on. Don’t buy beef (or other meat) that did.


Former butcher turned coder here. If this concerns you just find a meat counter that grinds their meats in-house. It is an incredibly easy thing to do and it is very economical as whole sealed sub-primals keep for much longer than ground beef, which begins to oxidize and change color much more quickly than it goes bad. That means you have to grind new beef about every other day even if it isn't selling. We used to take the unsold ground beef and freeze it before it oxidized too much for people who wanted to stock their freezer.


PSA: your grocery store butcher will grind up a steak of your choosing for you at no cost, you only need to ask.

I didn't know people bought pre-ground beef until moving out of my parents' home. Growing up, whenever we went shopping, my mother would start at the meat department, pick out a cheap steak, and ask the butcher to grind it up. We'd return for it later before heading to the cashier. I thought this was the standard operating procedure, as well as eating home-cooked hamburgers bloody rare.


no, you just have parents that care about food.


And are wealthy enough to make this choice.

I can't speak for the US, so maybe it is different, but here in the UK even the cheapest steak will set you back far more per kilo than minced beef.


Wealthy is not how I'd describe my parents; a construction worker with a stay at home housewife and three kids.

There are often steaks for sale on the refrigerated shelves adjacent to the butcher counter/case. Maybe that's not so common in the UK? The supermarkets here regularly have meat wrapped in clear plastic and carrying bright orange stickers on clearance, it's what happens to the case-resident stuff when new stock arrives.

My mother would familiarize herself with the schedule of deliveries at the stores she frequented. She knew when and where she could get the freshest stuff for special occasions, as well as when things went on sale to make room for the new meat, keeping our freeezer full of staples.

I don't think it requires wealth so much as it requires some care and effort. These are the kinds of duties a traditional housewife would take on, but I don't personally find it particularly difficult to chat up the butcher and do more or less the same thing as a bachelor.


Assuming there’s a grocery store within a reasonable distance that has a real butcher counter.


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