Do you want to know if you’ve been slimed by the recent concern about lean, finely textured beef? I find the sudden interest in the processing method used for what the media has coined “pink slime” to be lacking in solid facts. I raise beef cattle, and therefore I care about the beef products we provide for you and your families.
Lean, finely textured beef is made from bits of meat left on the bone after steaks, roasts and ribs have been cut. This mixture is heated to remove the fat and is nearly 95% lean. Because this mixture is added to products such as hamburger for added value there is an additional step of food safety taken.
Before the lean, finely textured beef is added to anything, a processing aid is used to kill off possible contaminants. Processing aids are not required to be declared in the ingredients list on the food label because, by definition, processing aids have no technical or functional effect in the finished food and because they are either not present or are present at only insignificant levels in the finished food. This labeling exemption dates back to 1973.
The processing aid used in lean, finely textured beef is ammonium hydroxide gas. As part of the commitment to provide the safest lean beef possible, research created the pH enhancement process, which relies upon slightly increasing the level of ammonium hydroxide already present in beef in order to elevate its pH.
Ammonium hydroxide is naturally found in beef, other proteins, and virtually all foods. It is widely used in the processing of numerous foods, such as baked goods, cheeses, gelatins, chocolate, caramels, and puddings. One result of this food safety system is the dramatic reduction in the number of potential pathogens that may be present in foods, such as E.coli O157:H7.
So why aren’t we hearing complaints about the pudding, buns, cheeses and other foods processed with ammonium hydroxide gas? Is this sudden outcry about using lean, finely textured beef really a food safety concern? If it is, then we should also be concerned about eating all of the foods in the table below.
This recent concern about finely textured beef is not something to be taken lightly. This process allows us to have leaner, safer beef products at a lower cost. And it proves good stewardship on behalf of beef producers for eliminating waste and improving food safety.
I fear that through the claims from the media about products made with lean, finely textured beef, we’ve all been slimed. Please check my sources below. I would love your help in “un-sliming” consumers regarding lean, finely textured beef.
Here are two of my sources for this blog. Click on each link to read more:
Compliance Guide on the Determination of Processing Aids (April 8, 2008)
Questions and Answers about Ammonium Hydroxide Use in Food Production
U.S. Food and Drug Administration Resources on Food Additives