The "Pink Slime" Controversy

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about lean finely textured beef. Editor Paul King is still on the fence, and wants to know what you think.

I recently returned from a cruise to the Bahamas aboard the Norwegian Jewel. One of the downsides of the cruise was that the Jewel is a Nickelodeon-themed ship. This, combined with the trip’s proximity to spring break for some school districts, meant there were lots of kids on this ship, and plenty of talk about kids getting “slimed.”

As the parent of grown children, I don’t have a lot of experience with Nickelodeon or its “slime.” Apparently kids love getting this green gook dumped all over them and their parents, for the most part are fine with it too. Whatever tickles your fancy, I guess.

Back in the office, and throughout the foodservice industry, much of the conversation—both before I left and since I’ve returned—has been about another kind of “slime,” otherwise known as lean finely textured beef or LFTB. This “slime” is pink, and most parents don’t want their children anywhere near it.

LFTB consists of the final bits of useful byproduct from cow carcasses. The mixture is heated, whirled in a centrifuge to extract the fat and treated with ammonium hydroxide gas to kill harmful bacteria. LTFB is added to ground beef as a filler, both to reduce cost and—ironically—to make the beef healthier by making the beef safer to eat and reducing the fat content.

Marion Nestle, the highly respected New York University professor who has authored several books and myriad articles on food safety and nutrition, recently made “pink slime” the topic of her "Food Matters" column in the San Francisco Chronicle. Her take? LFTB solves a couple of problems but creates a public relations nightmare.

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