Green Room

Government buys 7 million pounds of ‘pink slime’ for school lunches

posted at 11:09 am on March 7, 2012 by

If you need further evidence that the federal government should stay out of the school lunch business, it comes in a report from The Daily noting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has just contracted to buy 7 million pounds of “pink slime” for its school lunch program.

The term pink slime was coined by microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein. It refers to a ground-up blend of beef scraps, connective tissue, and other trimmings that has been treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill foodborne pathogens like salmonella and E. coli. The resulting product has a shocking pink appearance and a mouth feel described as more like Jell-O than hamburger. (For a more in-depth look at how pink slime is made, check out this segment from celebrity-chef-turned-buddinsky Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, though suffice it to say the stuff is so gross that McDonald’s and Burger King swore off using it in January.)

Marketed under the name “Lean Beef Trimmings” by its manufacturer, Beef Products Inc., pink slime has raised health concerns as well as aesthetic ones. Carl Custer, a microbiologist who worked for the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service for 35 years, is on record as saying:

We looked at the product and we objected to it because it used connective tissues instead of muscle. It was simply not nutritionally equivalent [to ground beef]. My main objection was that it was not meat.

And that’s only the half of it. Custer warns that ingesting ammonium hydroxide, an ingredient in household cleaners and fertilizers, can be harmful. To make matters worse, the chemical doesn’t invariably do the job it’s intended to do. The New York Times reported in 2009 that since 2005, E. coli was found three times and salmonella 48 in industrial-size batches of the product.

Word of the USDA’s plan to purchase 7 million pounds (that’s 3,500 tons) of pink slime comes on the heels of the government’s release of its new guidelines for more healthful school lunches. First Lady Michelle Obama announced the new standards along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on January 29, proclaiming:

When we send our kids to school, we expect that they won’t be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we try to keep them from eating at home.

She’s right. Pink slime is available only for institutional sale. Kids will not be eating it at home.

As for the purchase, maybe it exemplifies what the president means when he talks about “investing in our children’s future.”

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Kids can’t eat a brown bag lunch from home and they won’t eat the lunchroom pink slime. What a way to get the little tykes skinnier.

Kissmygrits on March 7, 2012 at 11:45 AM

Hmm, second look at Soylent Green?

rbj on March 7, 2012 at 11:45 AM

But if they serve it at school, it’s better than a home-packed lunch, right? I mean, those ignorant moms just don’t understand about nutrition like the gov’t does. /sarc

Mean Granny on March 7, 2012 at 11:45 AM

I’m so glad my kids won’t touch the cafeteria food now, and more than happy to pack them lunches every day.

toby11 on March 7, 2012 at 11:45 AM

“…is brought to you by Soylent green Pink Slime, high energy vegetable concentrates lean beef trimmings, and new, delicious, Soylent green Pink Slime. The miracle food of high-energy plankton beef trimmings gathered from the oceans farms of the world”

Ditkaca on March 7, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Ugghhh. Talk about mystery meat. Never thought I’d see the day when kids everywhere would be screaming for their soy burgers back.

dmn1972 on March 7, 2012 at 11:57 AM

“It refers to a ground-up blend of beef scraps, connective tissue, and other trimmings…”

Spam?

mrt721 on March 7, 2012 at 12:06 PM

I’ve packed my kids’ school lunches every day since 1997. This is disgusting!

rockmom on March 7, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Wrong thing to read on a queasy stomach. How disgusting!

Anna on March 7, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Ugghhh. Talk about mystery meat. Never thought I’d see the day when kids everywhere would be screaming for their soy burgers back.

dmn1972 on March 7, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Maybe that’s the real intent. Make meat so disgusting that kids turn to soycrap instead. Kind of like making gas and coal so expensive solar/wind/biofuels start to look good.

dentarthurdent on March 7, 2012 at 1:01 PM

Funny thing is that I just ate a McDonalds cheeseburger the other day and it was noticeably not as good in taste and texture as they used to be.

OxyCon on March 7, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Funny thing is that I just ate a McDonalds cheeseburger the other day and it was noticeably not as good in taste and texture as they used to be.

Hah!

Howard Portnoy on March 7, 2012 at 1:59 PM

“…is brought to you by Soylent green Pink Slime, high energy vegetable concentrates lean beef trimmings, and new, delicious, Soylent green Pink Slime. The miracle food of high-energy plankton beef trimmings gathered from the oceans farms of the world”

Ditkaca on March 7, 2012 at 11:52 AM

“But Brawndo has electrolytes”

mdenis39 on March 7, 2012 at 2:19 PM

Slime, slime, slime, slime, slime, slime, and slime.

J.E. Dyer on March 7, 2012 at 2:40 PM

“But Brawndo has electrolytes”

mdenis39 on March 7, 2012 at 2:19 PM

LOL!! I was just talking Idiocracy with some people at lunch.

dentarthurdent on March 7, 2012 at 2:56 PM

“Pink Slime” could describe the entire Dept. of Ag.

Joe Mama on March 7, 2012 at 4:48 PM

More reason for parents to take their kids out of public schools, I mean government indoctrination centers, I mean daily holding cells, I mean union jobs programs, …

AnotherOpinion on March 7, 2012 at 8:24 PM

Thank you Howard for bringing this up.

This is as bad as the ‘embalmed’ meat (preserved with boric acid & nitrate of potash, colored with food coloring) that was provided to the US Army during the Spanish American War by Armour & Co. of Chicago. Of the 5600+ American deaths, only 5% were battle related – the rest were due to food poisoning.

It looks the the US government is just as inept in 2012 at providing nutritious food as it was in 1898.

gobblemom on March 7, 2012 at 11:52 PM

How much money we could save if they could just leave us the hell alone. I am glad I pack my child’s lunch every day. I also never give her money for snacks like ice cream or whatever they have now, but on the bottom of some of the lunch trays are stickers. If you have a sticker on your tray, you get free ice cream. Making them fat and teaching them to gamble? Next they’ll be selling lottery tickets.

Night Owl on March 8, 2012 at 7:43 AM

My cats and dog eat better than this.

sammypants on March 8, 2012 at 8:29 AM

Okay, just saw a report on FOX that says pink slime can be found in over 70% of ground beef bought at super markets. I think I may puke.

dmn1972 on March 8, 2012 at 3:22 PM

Your kids will still Chicken nuggets
Nugget experiment epic failure

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9B7im8aQjo&feature=related

Wallythedog on March 8, 2012 at 4:52 PM