The company, Beef Products Inc., had been looking to expand into the hamburger business with a product made from beef that included fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil. The trimmings were particularly susceptible to contamination, but a study commissioned by the company showed that the ammonia process would kill E. coli as well as salmonella.
Good old-fashioned American ingenuity, can’t beat it! The days of fatty floor trimmings being wasted on dogs and cats are finally over! Tell me more about this miracle food product that science hath wrought…
The company says its processed beef, a mashlike substance frozen into blocks or chips, is used in a majority of the hamburger sold nationwide. But it has remained little known outside industry and government circles. Federal officials agreed to the company’s request that the ammonia be classified as a “processing agent” and not an ingredient that would be listed on labels.[…] [USDA] microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein, called the processed beef “pink slime” in a 2002 e-mail message to colleagues and said, “I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling.”
Mmmm, mashlike pink slime… [drool]… But wait, “used in a majority of the hamburger sold nationwide”?
That’s right, friends, the USDA approved this mess in 2002, and we are presently wolfing it down to the tune of 7 million pounds of pink slime per week.
With the U.S.D.A.’s stamp of approval, the company’s processed beef has become a mainstay in America’s hamburgers. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone.
OK, but how does it taste?
In 2004, lunch officials increased the amount of Beef Products meat allowed in its hamburgers to 15 percent, from 10 percent, to increase savings. In a taste test at the time, some school children favored burgers with higher amounts of processed beef.
No need to pack a lunch, mom and dad, little Jimmy loves it!
Just out of curiosity, how much does feeding this slop to kids actually “increase savings”?
Despite some misgivings, school lunch officials say they use Beef Products because its price is substantially lower than ordinary meat trimmings, saving about $1 million a year.[…] it shaved about 3 cents off the cost of making a pound of ground beef.
One million dollars, fantastic! Equal to roughly 1/1000000 of the bank bailout, give or take a few millionths. Anything else we should know?
Mr. Roth asserted that his product would kill pathogens in untreated meat when it was used as an ingredient in ground beef — raising the prospect of a risk-free burger. “Given the technology, we firmly believe that the two pathogens of major concern in raw ground beef — E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella — are on the verge of elimination,” Mr. Roth wrote to the department.[…] As sales took off, Mr. Roth started offering a buy-back guarantee: If any of the most virulent E. coli was found in ground beef containing Beef Products meat, the company would buy the tainted meat.
This was based on Mr. Roth’s initial prediction that his treated beef could kill E. coli in any meat it was mixed with. The company acknowledges that its subsequent study found no evidence to back that up, although it says it is now trying with an enhanced treatment.
Oh, I see now… Putting ammonia in the meat supply is just like putting chlorine in the water supply. Only the “meat supply” isn’t actually meat, and the disinfectant doesn’t actually work.
Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated. The meat was caught before reaching lunch-rooms trays.
In July, school lunch officials temporarily banned their hamburger makers from using meat from a Beef Products facility in Kansas because of salmonella — the third suspension in three years, records show. Yet the facility remained approved by the U.S.D.A. for other customers.
But who cares about that! It’s not like anybody eats it raw. I for one eagerly await the day we get pink slime piped directly to our taps! Besides, in 2007 the USDA decided the ammonia process was so effective that they exempted Beef Products from routine testing requirements for hamburger meat. (After all, it’s not even really meat!) Thanks for everything, assholes!
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Just for fun, I looked up Beef Products, Inc’s campaign contributions at OpenSecrets.org. (Here is owner Eldon Roth’s political donation history). All their contributions went to republican candidates, but interestingly enough they were a top ten contributor to freshman senator, Mike Johanns, from Nebraska. I thought it was weird that they would throw so much money at an out of state politician (they are based in South Dakota), until I discovered that Johanns was Bush’s Secretary of Agriculture from 2005 to 2007.
Coincidence? Somebody should ask Johanns about that decision to exempt a company that sells ammonia-laced floor scraps to schoolkids from routine testing of its “food” product. Something smells funny, and it’s not just my hamburger.