Friday, March 16, 2012

Ground Beef and The Lean Trimmings Debate

No treated lean beef trimmings in our ground beef!
Talk about a firestorm of news around "pink slime"! The City of Boston is immediately pulling over 60,000 pounds of ground beef containing pink slime from their schools' cafeterias! But, they cannot find a replacement for it as only 30% of our country's ground beef is certified to be free of pink slime..... and the pink slime may even be in grocery stores! There is no requirement to state treated lean trimmings content on the label, too! Whoa!

The USDA strenuously states that ammonium hydroxide treated lean beef trimmings are safe- maybe they are somewhat right- maybe. How many umpteen-thousands of tons of beef has been consumed with apparent little ill-effect? Ok...point taken..however precariously.

But, what about the issue of not telling consumers what they are eating? Was it really tested for safety? Is there any residual ammonium hydroxide in the meat? What is a safe level? What else will be learned tomorrow?

What is pink slime? Well, when beef is processed into familiar retail cuts, there is a lot of trimming.....a lot! In the name of efficiency, this trim loss does contain protein- a very important and expensive commodity, so it is an opportunity to increase efficiency. But when you include trimmings from the outer layers of the animal into ground beef- this layer is often contaminated. Fat is then separated out from the lean and a gooey protein rich product remains and pathogens are killed with gaseous ammonium hydroxide. Then add this protein back into the ground beef and stretch it out. And decrease the waste stream. Efficiency taken to an exponential level! There is an excellent story on this from NPR here:

What happens when our farm's beef is processed? There is a lot trim loss and the outer layers are discarded and sold to renderers (pet food, cosmetics, other fillers). Trim pieces that are too small for cubed stew, kabob meat and other small cuts goes into ground beef and sausage. We take a lower carcass yield due to the trim that goes to the renderer. And pink slime is thankfully not an option in small-scale processing houses anyway. Along with us, our processor is committed to producing clean, safe, minimally processed and wholesome food!

So.....if you buy your food from a store it can be a puzzle to find out exactly what's in it and how it was produced. But there are moves toward greater transparency... a very good thing indeed!

AND, you should get to know your producer- whatever the product- meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables- as they'd be happy to tell you all the details of how your food was produced! And we all need to work toward consuming a lot less processed foods, too. Priceless information for a properly informed decision!!

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