New York Times on Ammonia-Processed Beef

Just this morning, USA Today published an outstanding piece on the beef safety status of the National School Lunch Program. And now the New York Times has an equally important article on one company’s efforts to render lower-quality beef trimmings free of dangerous bacteria.

The company in question, Beef Products, Inc. devised a chemically-based way of ridding beef trimmings of E. coli and salmonella. The beef in question was ground up and treated with enough ammonia to kill any bacteria. Unfortunately, the resultant meat probably wouldn’t win any awards for quality:

[One 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.”

And here’s how a prison official, who received a batch of the beef, described the stuff:

“It was frozen, but you could still smell ammonia,” said Dr. Charles Tant, a Georgia agriculture department official. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

All this to in order to save something like three cents a pound over conventional ground beef. The economic decisions that the U.S. government makes regarding meat purchasing and food safety regulations are insane. Link.

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