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Friday, March 23, 2012

What's All This Talk About "Pink Slime"?

Media platforms (TV, radio, twitter, search engines, etc) across the country have been teeming with talk about "pink slime". As explained by Edward Mills, associate professor of dairy and animal science at Penn State, "pink slime" (also known as lean, finely textured beef or LFTB) is the lean meat that remains on fat trimmings removed from beef carcasses and that cannot be reclaimed with a knife cost effectively. This remaining meat is separated from fat in a mechanical process that involves heating minced trimmings only to about body temperature (100 degrees) then centrifuging to separate lean from fat. Because the trimmings may harbor dangerous pathogens that can cause foodborne illness, they are decontaminated with either ammonia gas or citric acid.

(Photo from http://live.psu.edu/story/58528#nw4)

The reason LFTB has turned into such a hot topic in recent weeks is that the U.S. government plans to buy LFTB beef and use it in the national school lunch program. The words "ammonia" and "school lunch" together are creating a huge debate on the safety of the use of LFTB. According to Professor Mills, "This issue really has been elevated in social media. Claims made that this product is not safe are blatantly untrue. From a microbial-pathogen point of view, the product has a better reputation than straight ground beef."

To read more about LFTB, please read the article "Expert: 'Pink slime' may be unappetizing, but it's safe, genuine beef".

Whether people are basing their views of the use of LFTB on facts or emotions, either way, I'm guessing this will remain a hot topic (and affect sales) in the beef industry for awhile.

If you are a beef producer, has this controversy affected your sales? Do you use LFTB? Would you voluntarily label your products as to if they do/do not contain LFTB? What do you think is the best way to educate consumers on LFTB?

As a consumer, how do you feel about the use of LFTB? Do you think products should be labeled as to if they do/do not contain LFTB?

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