When ABC News ran a program earlier this month on the use of so-called “pink slime” in USDA-approved ground beef, it created an overnight panic, especially among parents who wondered if the beef by-product is used in their children’s school lunches.
Turns out they were right to worry.
According to one report, the USDA’s National School Lunch Program, which includes ground beef mixed with “Lean Finely Textured Beef” (LFTB)—aka pink slime, provides approximately 20 percent of the meals served to American schoolchildren in both public and non-profit schools. States and school districts purchase the additional food needed for school lunches.
After the ABC report went viral on social media, a Houston mother who writes The Lunch Tray Blog launched a petition on Change.org, asking the USDA to stop the use of LFTB in its National School Lunch Program.
The petition has collected close to 250,000 signatures. More importantly, the public outcry by parents and others concerned about the beef consumed by American schoolchildren led the USDA to announce March 15 that it will offer school districts the ability to order beef products with—and without—LFTB this fall.
The statement from the federal agency read, “USDA only purchases products for the school lunch program that are safe, nutritious and affordable—including all products containing Lean Finely Textured Beef. However, due to customer demand, the department will be adjusting procurement specifications for the next school year so schools can have additional options in procuring ground beef products. USDA will provide schools with a choice to order product either with or without Lean Finely Textured Beef.”
As news about LFTB spread, many national grocery chains have come forward admitting that they sell ground beef mixed with LFTB, and many of the major chains have announced that they'll no longer do so.
What exactly is so-called “pink slime” or LFTB? It’s the trimmings—also known as renderings—from large cuts of beef which are sliced off, “finely” processed in machines that separate the fat that’s attached, then heated to remove any remaining fat, and then treated with ammonia hydroxide.
Sounds yummy, no?
Incidentally, the man responsible for the term “pink slime” is Gerald Zirnstein, a former microbiologist at the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service. He reportedly came up with the term after touring one of four plants owned by Beef Products Inc., based in South Dakota—the producer of LFTB—and later told colleagues that he didn't consider the product to be beef.
Do you know if your school district or state uses ground beef mixed with LFTB? Will you try to find out? What’s your take on this whole "where's the beef?" controversy?
Editor's note: For healthy, nutritious school lunch and lunchbox ideas, visit our new SchoolFamily.com Recipe Share. Do you have a good recipe you'd be willing to share? Send it to us and we'll include it on our site!