Clarified - Much a goo about 'pink slime'
March 9th, 2012
12:00 PM ET
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In cooking, the process of clarification entails straining out extraneous muck from liquids so that they might be pure, clear and ideal for consumption. With this series on food terminology and issues we're attempting to do the same.

A new phrase has oozed into the news cycle: "pink slime."

While one might expect such terminology to deal with a "Double Dare" or "Ghostbusters" reboot, instead, it refers to something that many Americans are consuming without even knowing it.

The pink goo first gained mainstream attention when British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver focused an episode of his show, "Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution," on the product that is used as a ground beef filler.
 During the episode, Oliver reported 70 percent of ground beef in the United States contains the ammonium hydroxide-treated ground meat that bears a striking resemblance to strawberry fro-yo.

"Basically, we're taking a product that would be sold at the cheapest form for dogs and after this process, we can give it to humans," said Oliver.

Beef Products, Inc., are the makers of the so-called "pink slime." They describe themselves as the "world's leading producer of lean beef processed from fresh beef trimmings."

BPI makes the product by grinding together beef scraps and connective tissue. The company then uses a mixture of ammonia and water (ammonium hydroxide) to prevent the risk for E. coli or salmonella contamination.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) both consider ammonium hydroxide as GRAS (an acronym for "generally recognized as safe"), McDonald’s has since announced that it discontinued the use of, what the corporation calls, select beef trimmings (SLBT). The fast food chain came under fire after the episode for using the filler in its hamburger patties.

"For a number of years prior to 2011, to assist with supply, McDonald’s USA used some lean beef trimmings treated with ammonia in our burgers. We were among other food retailers who used this safe product," the fast food chain released in a statement.

"At the beginning of last year, we made a decision to stop using this ingredient. It has been out of the McDonald’s USA supply chain since last August."

Taco Bell and Burger King have reportedly also discontinued use of BPI's product.

However, a new report in the tablet-only newspaper The Daily suggests the USDA plans to buy 7 million pounds of lean beef trimmings from BPI this spring for the national school lunch program. has since started a petition against the USDA and its use of BPI's products in school lunches.

At present, the USDA does not require labeling that would let consumers know if the beef they're buying contains the mixture.

"The only solution I can give you is: The only way you can use ground beef is by watching the butcher grind it in front of you - which they can do, but that's a real pain in the backside," said Oliver.

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Filed under: Bite • Clarified • Culture • Food Politics • News • Pink Slime • School Lunch

soundoff (235 Responses)
  1. North Face Ski Pants

    l am vacuuming the floor now and have several shirts to iron.I think I've caught a cold.She hired a car by the hour.Yet all these things, different as they seem, have one thing in common.How's it going? The doctor examined the soldier's wound carefully.The doctor examined the soldier's wound carefully.He is physically mature.It's a fine day.I bought it the day it was released.
    North Face Ski Pants

    December 3, 2012 at 4:11 am |
  2. Farsun

    If you watch the Documentary Food Inc. , it all makes sense.
    pink slime is no worse than the rest of the cafo beef. and thats not a good thing.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  3. What?


    Your uninformed diatribe is getting really old. You want to knock this stuff for the ammonia they use, have at it. Making the statement that it has "no nutritional value" is an out-and-out lie, and either you know that, or you're too dumb to know that it's not true.

    The "connective tissue" that's present will consist largely of collagen – that's the stuff of which tendons and ligaments are made. Ever hear of "gelatin"? Do you eat Jell-O(R)? Guess what, dumba@@, you're eating hydrolyzed collagen. And do you know what collagen is? – of course you don't. It's pure protein, and since you probably can't infer this from the information given – that means it has real nutritional value. Your BS is really old, and you are living proof of the old saying that "Ignorance can be overcome with education, but there's no cure for stupid".

    By the way, "hydrolyzed" simply means 'reacted with water' (broken/split with water, if you want to be technical). That's what happens when you cook "connective tissue" with MOIST heat, it converts into gelatin. Dry heat won't do it, because there's not enough water there to allow the conversion to occur.

    March 13, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Tim

      What's really old is how you meat industry shills will grasp at anything to alleviate your pain.

      Although gelatin is 98-99% protein by dry weight, it has less nutritional value than many other protein sources. Gelatin is unusually high in the non-essential amino acids glycine and proline (i.e., those produced by the human body), while lacking certain essential amino acids (i.e., those not produced by the human body). It contains no tryptophan and is deficient in isoleucine, threonine, and methionine. The approximate amino acid composition of gelatin is: glycine 21%, proline 12%, hydroxyproline 12%, glutamic acid 10%, alanine 9%, arginine 8%, aspartic acid 6%, lysine 4%, serine 4%, leucine 3%, valine 2%, phenylalanine 2%, threonine 2%, isoleucine 1%, hydroxylysine 1%, methionine and histidine <1% and tyrosine <0.5%. These values vary, especially the minor constituents, depending on the source of the raw material and processing technique.

      Keep swinging and I'll keep drilling.

      March 13, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
      • Tim

        Protein Quality
        Collagen is not a complete protein because it is lacking in the amino acid tryptophan. A Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAA) of a complete protein is 1.0. Collagen's PDCAA score is 0.08.

        March 13, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
        • Tim


          Collagen differs from most other proteins in containing the amino acids, hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline and no cysteine or tryptophan. Elastin, also present in connective tissue, has less hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline. Hence cuts of meat that are richer in connective tissue have lower protein quality (see Chapter 3). Their content of connective tissue makes them tough and in many regions these cuts of meat bring a lower price.

          March 13, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
      • Tim


        Collagen content
        High contents of collagen in any meat can negatively influence its technological and nutritional characteristics, since collagen is a protein with inferior functionality and low nutritional value because of its poor balance of amino acids.

        March 13, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
        • Tim

          One last thing: Gelatin is an excellent diet food because it takes more calories to digest than it contains.

          Nice job,What?

          The meat industry is better off without your "help."

          March 13, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • What?

      Well, I see somebody was goaded into action. Cut-and-paste on steroids. I don't recall ever stating that collagen was a "complete protein" – probably because I know better. There are very few "complete proteins" out there – but then, you already knew this, too, didn't you? – so this whole thing isn't just a smokescreen. Bottom line is – and your own google research proves – that you've been spouting misinformation.

      By the way, I'm curious as the to the source of your last posted comment here. In fact, I call BS on that statement until you can provide a RELIABLE source to verify it. (You may be busy for a while.)

      Oh, and your source (Widipedia?) for the amino acid composition of collagen is wrong.

      March 14, 2012 at 9:01 am |
      • Skeptic

        Hold on... While I'm on your side, how is the composition of collagen different from what Tim posted? Those are comparable to the values I've seen for humans, though I don't know bovine collagen composition other than to assume it is fairly conserved. I'm simply curious.
        By the by, however, he's right about it not having three amino acids, but who really cares, neither do beans and we still eat those. If we're relying on lunchrooms to provide complete nutrition, not only are we deceiving ourselves, but we are in big trouble.

        February 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
        • What?

          Collagen is a very unique protein, and a quite dense one, too. It's structure is somewhat unique, in that it consists of multiple "strands" – prevailing theory used to be 3 – somewhat twisted together, much like a rope. Each strand consists of a very regular, and essentially unprecedented, repeating sequence of amino acids. This sequence is glycine, proline/hydroxyproline, and "various". You can see from this that fully 33% of the amino acid content – by count – is glycine, and the combination of proline and hydroxyproline account for another 33%. The remaining third is composed of the other A.A.'s that are present in various concentrations. This is what was published in the meat science textbooks and taught to every college meat science student 30 years ago. I am not aware of any changes to that information, but I don't check on it every day ;) .

          February 6, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
    • What?

      Clarification: The 'last comment' I was referring to is "One last thing: Gelatin is an excellent diet food because it takes more calories to digest than it contains."

      March 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
      • Tim

        It wouldn't matter to you what I posted or where it came from - you're too hung up on defending crap and it's making you have conniptions every time you fail.

        Do your own research and prove me wrong on any of those statements.

        Personally, I believe your latest attack is nothing more than an easy way to move the link to the Petition to the USDA farther down the page. I wouldn't put it past someone who defends crap.

        But then, you already knew that didn't you;. Ta-ta Mr. Self-Proclaimed "food scientist." LOL
        For those who don't know about the petition, here it is again:

        March 14, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
        • What?

          I have both the degrees (that's plural) and the credentials to back up my "claim". What 'credentials' do you have? You've got nothing – nothing – other than your cherry-picked cut-and-paste junk that you have posted. It's good to be 'passionate' about a cause – it's even better when you really know what is involved and what you're actually passionate about.

          I'm not defending crap. I'm not defending anything. I'm trying to introject a little truth in the middle of all the misinformation that's on here – of which you seem to be the primary author. I will restate – You are absolutely misrepresenting the truth here, and I'm becoming more convinced that you're doing it on purpose.

          Unless the rules have changed, it is MANDATED than any visible fecal contamination on the surface of a carcass is trimmed off and discarded. That's not knocked off, or swept off, or rinsed off, but physically excised (cut out) and placed in INEDIBLE OFFAL. This "inedible offal" cannot, under any circumstances, be used to make any product that will be used for human consumption. Of course, you knew this, too, didn't you? Oh (snap), no you didn't, or you would have known that "contaminated floor sweepings" – which are also INEDIBLE OFFAL – weren't really used to make BPI's product, or any other product for human consumption for that matter. (And I didn't have to google this and cut-and-paste it.) Go find it on USDA's website for yourself, if you can. There won't be any cherry-picking on this one.

          It's always easier to evade the question than to answer it, too, especially when you have no answer. (It takes more energy to digest collagen than you get out of it.) You can't provide the PROOF of this because it isn't out there. I told you your source was incorrect on the amino acid make-up of collagen, and it is. And I know this because of my "credentials".

          Now, I'll be real plain. Your lies have been exposed, so you just keep on spouting the same junk over and over, Mr. Whatever-you-are – because it surely isn't "food scientist", or any kind of 'scientist', I'm guessing. You're living in your own bitter, uninformed, and intransigent delusion, so carry on. Must really "nurse" to be you.

          March 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
        • Tim

          Sounds like you spit your pacifier again.

          March 16, 2012 at 11:05 am |
        • What?

          I give you verifiable facts and this is your reply? Must be running out of ammunition trying to defend that indefensible position you've taken there, eh? If "ignorance is bliss", then you must be one of the happiest people on the planet.

          Sometimes one has to realize that their efforts are completely wasted on people who are either unable or UNWILLING to accept the truth. I've put up with you long enough. My work's though here.

          March 16, 2012 at 11:28 am |
        • Tim

          For your edification:

          Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) = Beef Industry's silken description.

          Pink Slime/Crap/Floor-Sweep/non-nutritional filler = consumer's common sense pejorative description for the same thing. I cannot speak for all consumers, but I'd dare say that most of them do NOT think of big hunks of connective tissue (gristle and whatnot) and compromised tissues to be the constituents of "ground beef." The key word is: Beef. Why? Because we believe ground beef to be made largely from muscle meat and some fat which has not been technologically reconstituted into something befitting the statement by a USDA rep as, "It's pink, therefore it's meat." At what point do we say, "Enough double-talk" and stop loathsome practices such as this which are nothing more than a means to more profit and not really "nutritious" (as you claim)?

          You can't have it in all of the ways you've described. Is it collagen? Is it gelatin? Is it the good, wholesome material you seem to want everyone to believe it is?

          Is "risky product" (as it is described by two USDA scientists) something you >really< want children to be eating?

          The product is out-and-out fraud all the way around. Period.

          If you desire to continue defending "it" here then be my guest. The battle is taking place elsewhere and will be won by those of us who believe it's time for food corporations to stop the constant deceptions which are nothing more than a means to expand their bottom line.

          My pejoratives will never stop just as I expect your own gelatinous mass of decorative hoo-hah will continue unabated. I suppose your brand of propaganda might well be labeled as "Lean Finely Textured Misdirection." I'm just here to be certain that it's sanitized with my own verbal "ammonia." You're an industry shill and it makes no difference if you're a food scientist or not. You're whizzing into the wind for all the good it will do you. :)

          March 18, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • mike taaffe

      if you want the truth about what big corperations are doing to your food and real news that our government never tells you
      go to
      both are paid for by the people of the people and for the people- not owned by government........

      March 18, 2012 at 6:43 am |
  4. Tim

    To all the parents reading this page -

    Please sign the petition against the USDA using this connective tissue filler (no nutritional value) in the school lunch program. There are nearly 200,000 signatures as I write this and we need everyone who values the health of children to sign.

    Don't let the beef industry get away with putting their collective "thumbs on the scale" by forcing school children to eat stuff that is about as nutritious as sawdust and potentially dangerous.

    Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell your enemies - tell everyone to sign the petition and to NOT buy or (god forbid) eat "pink slime" burgers. But let's stop them from endangering our kids first by signing the petition!

    March 12, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  5. Karl

    All they do is sanitize previously unsafe meat by-products using ammonia processing. There is probably only trace amounts of residue left in the product. Not too appealing, but I assure you there is more free ammonia in an ounce of Camembert cheese than exists in a pound of this "slime" and it gets imported and consumed by the ton every day and nobody gets sick. If you want to get mad at the FDA, it should be about their approval and turning a blind eye to the devastation hydrogenated oils/trans fats have caused and are causing. That poison has caused more death and suffering through coronary artery disease than this pink slime ever will.

    March 12, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  6. Steve

    Ammonia simply isn't good for you. Adulterating product and not telling your customers is immoral and dishonest.

    That's all there is to it. HFCS, "Pink Slime", Aspartame, Bisyphenol-A (sic), the list goes on and on as to the cheap, toxic things those who produce this food include as adulterants to stretch and/or cheapen the supply, so as to positively affect the bottom line – and they don't care who it affects negatively in regards to health.

    These people need to be held accountable first – the ones who allowed it to happen, the very people in charge of said food production – and then, "follow the money" to find the dirtbag pieces of garbage that pay these people to do so, the suppliers of these materials, the legislators and lawmakers allowing them to do this to us, the USDA, again, the list goes on – but rest assured, there are many dirty hands here, and it's no "conspiracy theory", it's a plain and simple conspiracy to not care one bit about people and only care about lining one's pockets – and it should be pretty easy to see.

    March 12, 2012 at 4:21 am |
    • What?

      Steve, thanks for the information. I have been a food scientist for nearly 30 years now, and I never knew until reading your comments that "Bisyphenol-A" was used as an 'additive' in foods. That is a revelation for me.

      Would you also happen to know exactly what functional purpose it serves in the food? No? I didn't think so. That's probably because there isn't one. You see, bisphenol-A isn't used as a food additive, and never has been. Thank you for your addition to the heap of misinformation here.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
      • Tim

        BPA is not an additive to food in the same manner that the USDA is claiming that the ammonium hydroxide is not an additive to "pink slime," but rather, a process.

        The BPA gets into humans in the same way that the ammonium hydroxide gets into humans. We eat it or drink it as it is corroded off of the container which has BPA present.

        See – this is the very same thing although just different vehicles.

        Nice job, once again Mr. Food Scientist who likes to have tantrums and call people names. :)

        March 14, 2012 at 12:59 am |
        • What?

          I'm perfectly well aware of how BPA gets into foods. The poster make the declaration that it was "added" to foods intentionally by the food manufacturers, and this is dead wrong. But don't let the facts get in your way.

          March 14, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • crazypete

      You are correct. Ammonia is not good for you. It is also not bad for you (well, unless you are exposed to large amounts of ammonia gas, but then it is bad in the same way that hydrochloric acid is bad for you: too much is bad, less is just fine...). Your body simply cannot utilize it. Otherwise it is sorta like having sand in food: unappealing perhaps but harmless.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • SherwoodOR

      There is more naturally-occuring Ammonia in the bun (and let's not get started on the cheese if you decide to have a cheese burger) than in a patty made with the products in question.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  7. Ann Rowe

    I am so discouranged with the FDA that they don;t seem to be there for us, How culd they turn around and send this to markets that seli hamburger and not to the dog food companies like be for. The government has apparently over millions pounds of this pink slim and but it in our childrens food. The is the most dispicable thing that this government/

    March 12, 2012 at 3:58 am |
    • SherwoodOR

      Ms. Rowe rants, "The is the most dispicable thing that this government"

      But why? Why is this dispicable?

      March 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  8. RC

    Is it toxic? Is it linked to cancer, disorders, hair loss, or weight gain? 70% of beef contains it, but how much of each pound of beef is actually ammonium hydroxide? The much ado of this article is that it's in the food, without explaining why it's allegedly bad, other than the mental idea of sharing a component with dog food. I prefer more facts before I panic.

    March 12, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • vintage274

      I am astounded at your reply. The fact that 50 years ago no such product existed in this country should be enough information to make us demand that it stop. We have so adulterated our food products that you actually have the audacity to question whether it causes bodily harm and then just totally accept it since no one has given you the scientific proof otherwise? It's not REAL UNADULTERATED food. It's tainted with chemicals (and not in trace amounts if you bother to actually do the research). And it's done in the name of making a buck for meat companies. How blase can you be?

      March 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • crazypete

      Hey Vintage274! You are very critical, except in your thinking. Do you want to get rid of all chemically treated food? OK, well traditional corn tortillas are treated with lye, so get rid of those. All charcuterie, bacon, salami, etc must also go (nitrites and nitrates) as well as table salt (NaCl), olives (lye again), and many many more. And what does the "50 years" point have to do with anything? Anything newer than 50 years is no good? But everything was within your "50 year" qualification at some point. Ohhh... the lack of logic. Makes me sad...

      March 12, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • crazypete

      @vintage274: 50 years ago many of the drugs we use were not around (like HIV, antibiotics, high cholesterol, anti-cancer, etc, etc, etc). The fact that they didn't exist 50 years ago means we should take them off the market? Huh? Or is this "rule" only arbitrarily applied to food?

      March 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
      • AndyCincy

        @crazypete...I was thinking the same thing about the 50 years comment. I'm not sure what it has to do with anything. However, I do think the manufactures ought to state anything that is in our ground beef besides ground beef and what approximate percentage. And when they fail to do so voluntarily, the government should step in and force them to.

        A box of cereal must list its ingredients, so why not beef? Well, the thought is that it WAS because the only thing in beef is beef. Since that is not true, they should have to list the ingredients.

        March 12, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
        • crazypete


          March 13, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  9. Joe

    My family eats nothing but *whole cuts* of meat. A chicken breast. A steak. Leg of lamb.

    Never in a million years will I feed my kids something that has been ground up and reconsituted such as deli meat, hamburger, hot dogs, etc.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • Fred M.

      Ground meat is not 'reconstituted' any more than are chopped onions, minced garlic, or grated cheese. If you are concerned about what's in it, pick a fresh cut of meat and have the butcher grind it in front of you or grind it yourself at home.

      Stop with the weird, fetishistic food behavior. Your children aren't got to become sick or die from occasionally eating spaghetti and meatballs, a hamburger, or a kabob. Concentrate on giving them a balanced diet and teaching them about nutrition, not coming up with some list of foods to deny them, foods that all their friends eat with no ill effects.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:53 am |
      • Trozzur

        @ Fred: Agreed.

        March 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • wherefrom

      But where do you get your "whole cuts of meat" from? The supermarket? Or do you care if your meat is from factory farms? That, to me, is just as dangerous as ground beef.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  10. Karl

    Who cares? It all turns into brown slime anyway.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:06 am |
  11. Chloe in Central Texas

    does anyone remember reading The Jungle by Upton Sinclair?
    or how about the movie Soylent Green?

    March 11, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  12. abby

    who can even afford ground beef? makes me kinda glad I can't afford the garbage -

    by the way, does anyone remember when Oprah Winfrey got all that flack from the beef industry when she said that she wasn't going to eat any more ground beef?

    March 11, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  13. luvcomments

    The reason there's pink slime in our beef is due to the meat industry buying off the pink slimes in our congress.

    March 11, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Tim


      Probably the smartest and truest comment here yet. Thank you!

      March 12, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  14. sonofgadfly

    As long as they don't put that crap in my bologna, sausage, or hot dogs...

    March 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • arthurrrr

      you are kidding, right????

      March 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • oldguy

      What did you think bologna and hot dogs were...?

      March 12, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • Really?

      arthurrrr & oldguy, sorry to see your humorectomy was a complete success.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  15. MakeThemEatCake

    How about skipping GROUND beef altogether ?. Unless they pump this stuff into a steak, rump roast, etc. to make them look fatter that should be the way to go for beef. I realize in a school lunch menu this isn't a solution but most school districts publish their lunch menu, so pack your child a lunch on those days which gives your total control over the food your child eats.

    March 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • noidiot

      A turkey and cheese sandwhich is a very healthy alternative to hamburger and chicken nuggest.

      March 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
      • oldguy

        ...except if it's re-assembled turkey meat. Then it's white slime...

        March 12, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  16. jim

    Clap your hands if you believe McDonald's is not still using pink slime (what is the sound of one hand clapping?).

    March 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
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