McDonald’s and other fast food chains have quietly announced that they will stop selling “Pink Slime” beef – a form of second-grade meat that is treated with a nasty ammonia process to eliminate bacteria. Thanks to national headlines and attention from big name chefs like Jamie Oliver, the USDA-approved process that literally turns dog food into burger meat is becoming more and more taboo for big companies after drawing outrage from vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Butchering a cow yields a number of pieces of high-quality meat. The leftover bits from inside cavities and around the bones (often ridden with bacteria and E. Coli) are called trimmings. Butchers actually pay for trimmings to be taken away so that they don’t contaminate their working area or food. Trimmings are then trucked to factories where dog and chicken food is produced, as their immune systems can supposedly support stronger bacteria. Pink Slime is the process of keeping these leftover trimmings, spinning them around to break up the meat from the fat, and then dousing the lean meat with ammonia to kill the E. Coli. This process also thins the beef, creating about 15% more meat. It has been estimated that almost 70% of the beef in America includes this ammonia treated filler.
The USDA officially declares ammonium hydroxide to be “generally recognized as safe.” Furthermore, since Pink Slime is considered a treatment process, not an ingredient in foods, the USDA says it is legal to omit its presence on any food labels. In a way, McDonald’s is doing a noble thing in bringing Pink Slime use to light and refusing to continue using it. Todd Bacon, McDonald’s senior director of quality systems says, “This decision was a result of our efforts to align our global standards for how we source beef around the world.” The company’s stance has already inspired Taco Bell and Burger King to follow suit.
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