Right now, we’re at ground zero in the battle to regain our food democracy.
Today, Governor Terry Branstad and Representative Steve King, along with various proponents of the industrialized ag model, have come to the defense of pink slime. That’s right, that goo-like substance that the Industrial Meat Factories (and now politicians) deceptively call “lean, finely textured beef” or “LFTB”, a ground beef filler treated with a blast of ammonia, is being defended and debated at Iowa State University as we write.
Colorado rancher, Mike Callicrate, traveled to ISU to set the record straight: “This is industrial ag versus family agriculture. We’re here to stand up for America’s family farmers and America’s consumers.”
Why all the fuss?
In case you haven’t heard of Pink Slime, it’s that mysterious meat by-product that appears in 70% of hamburgers sold in the U.S.  Recently, a number of USDA scientists turned whistleblowers and some media attention have turned the entire meat industry (and Iowa politics) upside down by exposing the fact that the vast majority of ground beef contains this mysterious substance – and isfound in our children’s school lunches.
The USDA, which planned to purchase 7 million pounds of pink slime for school lunches, announced that it would allow public schools to opt out of buying meat containing Pink Slime.  This, however, does not give parents and children the opportunity to opt out of eating it at school if the school chooses to buy it.
Enough is enough! Pink Slime has no business being fed to our children in America’s school lunches.Politicians have claimed that this is a “safe, wholesome, food product” and “consumers can rely” on it. Consumers have said, “No!” and it’s time our representatives listen to the people and get the slime out of our food and our children’s food.
The sad truth is, despite what a number of politicians and the Industrial Meat propagandists would have you believe, before Beef Products Inc. (BPI) invented Pink Slime in the 1990s, this meat by-product would have been used for dog food.  Sadly, now it’s ending up in our hamburgers and our children’s school lunches.
What do USDA scientists say about Pink Slime?
Gerald Zirnstein, a retired USDA microbiologist who worked at the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service, first coined the phrase “pink slime” in 2002 after touring a BPI plant and has recently told the media, “I have a 2-year-old son, and you better believe I don’t want him eating pink slime when he starts going to school.” 
According to The Daily, retired USDA microbiologist Carl Custer, a 35-year veteran of the Food Safety Inspection Service said, “the idea of mixing in BPI’s Lean Beef Trimmings into more nutritious, pure ground beef was itself problematic.” He also told The Daily, “My main objection was that it was not meat”. In addition, a study conducted by Zirstein and Custer classified the trimmings as a “high risk product.”5
Why then did three governors recently rush to the Midwest to defend Pink Slime and help promote a food adulteration practice that should never have been allowed in our food supply? Perhaps it is because the owners of Beef Products Inc. have donated nearly $800,000 to political candidates in the past 10 years, including more than $150,000 to Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa, where BPI operates a plant in Waterloo.
Even worse, Secretary Vilsack and a top USDA food safety official joined this misguided effort to defend Pink Slime.
Pink Slime and The New York Times exposé
The process of creating “lean, finely textured beef” aka Pink Slime allows meat processors to take leftover beef scraps, connective tissue, ligaments and other inedible beef parts, spin them in a centrifuge, heating the “parts” until they liquefy and treating the resulting substance with a blast of ammonia. While the use of ammonium hydroxide is used to kill deadly diseases such as E. coli and salmonella, Beef Products Inc. has said that its product is absolutely safe. The original exposé of Pink Slime in a 2009 New York Times article proves otherwise.8
According to the original 2009 Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times investigative report, “Government and industry records obtained by The New York Times show that in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the U.S.D.A. about the effectiveness of the treatment”. As a result of the New York Times investigation and numerous recalls of meat containing BPI’s pink slime, the USDA revoked ‘Beef Products’ exemption from routine testing and conducting a review of the company’s operations and research.”
Despite the propaganda that BPI and Industrial Meat’s PR spin team keep repeating, BPI and their “barely meat” by-products have been found in violation of basic food safety standards and have had higher positive test counts for foodborne disease multiple times.
This doesn’t really sound as safe as Secretary Vilsack and his fellow USDA food safety official said recently, now does it?
According to the New York Times article: “School lunch officials said they ultimately agreed to use the treated meat because it shaved about 3 cents off the cost of making a pound of ground beef.” As a nation, we have to ask ourselves, is this what we’ve become? A country that would sacrifice the health, safety and nutrition of its children and our families to save 3 cents a pound?
Based on this New York Times article alone, it’s pretty clear that not everything we’re hearing today from Secretary Vilsack, politicians and the American meat industry are anything close to the truth.
The fact remains, that 20 years ago the beef parts used to make the “lean, finely textured beef” product would have been put in dog food, not our children’s school lunches.
We shouldn’t be feeding our kids Kibbles and Bits!
If we don’t stand up today, the worst practices of industrial agriculture will only continue to dominate our food supply.
Thanks for participating in food democracy,
Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! team
1. “70 Percent of Ground Beef at Supermarkets Contains ‘Pink Slime’” ABC News, March 7, 2012
2. “Schools will get to opt out of ‘pink slime’ beef”, Associated Press, March 15, 2012
3. “Pink Slime: Combo of Connective Tissue, Scraps Hidden In Your Kid’s Lunch”, FoxNews, March 8, 2012.
4. “Partners in ‘slime’: Feds keep buying ammonia-treated ground beef for school lunches”, The Daily, March 5, 2012
5. “Partners in ‘slime’: Feds keep buying ammonia-treated ground beef for school lunches”, The Daily, March 5, 2012
6. “BPI’s Response to Outrage over Ground Beef? 3 Governors and a T-shirt”, Appetite for Profit, March 30, 2012
7. “Partners in ‘slime’: Feds keep buying ammonia-treated ground beef for school lunches”, The Daily, March 5, 2012
8. “Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned”, The New York Times, December 30, 2009