Just Walt's Mental Meanderings

Walter Blevins

Walter Blevins
Vista, California, USA
August 22
I'm a 60 year old guy who lives in Vista California with my wife. I spent the 30 years before moving to Cali in Iowa, Wisconsin and North Dakota. And I have 2 grown children, a son and a daughter who live in Virginia and Iowa and a 22 year old step-daughter lives with us here in Vista. I'm a proud grandpa with 2 grandaughters living in Virginia. I like to write about a whole variety of things from my kids to cooking to politics to the car industry to my status as a "Cheap Bastid" and "Old Fart" and just random thoughts. And I really love writing about cooking really good, homecooked comfort food cheap. That's why they call me the Cheap Bastid. By the way--all the stuff I write is my stuff and you can't use it without my official OkeyDokey

MARCH 13, 2012 9:44AM

Foodie Tuesday: Who Wants a "Pink Slime" Burger?

Rate: 21 Flag

Doesn’t that sound good?  A big old double-stacker of Pink Slime.  Last week, “pink slime” leaped to the top of the standing in Google searches after a series of stories hit the news about 5 million pounds of it being sold to school lunch programs.

All of a sudden people were questioning whether or not their kids should be eating such stuff.  Well hell, they’ve been eating it for a while in the burgers and tacos they snarf down at fast food joints.


Beef Products, Inc. of South Dakota (or BPI) is apparently the main purveyor of this tasty product which they call “finely textured lean beef”.  Dr. Gerald Zirnstein of the USDA coined the term “pink slime” in a memo a while back defining it as “boneless beef trimmings”, or such products that have gone through a centrifuge.”

“Mary Jane’s Farm”, a blog which was quoted in a post by TLC (The Learning Channel) described “pink slime” like this:
“Ten years ago, the rejected fat, sinew, bloody effluvia, and occasional bits of meat cut from carcasses in the slaughterhouse were a low-value waste product called ‘trimmings’ that were sold primarily as pet food.  No more.  Now, BPI transforms trimmings into something they call ‘boneless lean beef’.  In huge factories, the company liquefies the trimmings and uses a spinning centrifuge to separate the sinews and fats from the meat, leaving a mash that has been described as ‘pink slime’, which is then frozen into small squares and sold as a low-cost additive to hamburger”. 

Oh yeah, and BPI produces more than 7 million pounds of it.  Per Week!  That’s a million pounds a day.  Enough each year for more than a pound of this magical elixir for every person in the U.S.

What the blogpost didn’t say was that the “mash” is treated with ammonium hydroxide in order to kill germs like e coli.

Supposedly this product now is present in 70% of the ground beef sold in the U.S.

OK, if you’re alarmed, worried or a bit scared raise your hand and let’s count.  Yep, I see quite a few hands raised out there, including mine.  I don’t want to eat that stuff, do you?  I wouldn’t want my kid eating that stuff at school either.

And, there’s no requirement to label the product or otherwise warn consumers that the hamburger they’re buying contains “pink slime”.  I’m not too thrilled about that either.  Janet Riley, Senior Vice President of the American Meat Institute told ABC News that there’s no need to label this product as anything other than “beef”.  “It’s beef,” she said. “and it’s labeled as beef.”

finely textured lean beef pink slime

Does this look like ground beef to you?  It's Pink Slime

Huh?  I have a problem defining “connective tissue” and the waste meat that was discarded then treated with chemicals and put into a centrifuge as beef.  I have a big problem with it.

What’s the motivation behind it?  How about profit?  I would guess that it’s more profitable to take the stuff that would normally be thrown out because it dropped on the floor or might be contaminated with fecal matter to “process” it and sell it as an “additive” for ground beef than to box it up to be processed into pet food.  If it can be peddled to the consuming public it means that they can 1) charge more and 2) not have to raise and slaughter as many cattle.

So, WWCBD?  (that’s short for “What Would Cheap Bastid Do?”)  I rarely buy pre-ground hamburger.  For the last several years I have about 90% of the time selected a chuck roast or round roast when it’s on special at my grocery store and asked the meat cutter to grind it for me.  My grocery store will grind it for no extra charge.  I typically spend less than $3 a pound for ground beef that is $4 or more per pound if it’s already ground up. 

I know that the roast I picked out comes from one cow. It’s clean.  I’m confident in its quality—and there is NO “pink slime”. 

When I get home, I take my meat package, open it up and divide it into freezer bags.  (One other Cheap Bastid secret is that I’m usually planning on cooking for 2 so, to me, a “pound” is 12 ounces—we don’t need more than that for 2 people.  If I have “pounds” or about 2 ¼ pounds of actual meat, I’ll put 12 ounces each into bags and then divide the last 12 ounces in half, wrap each 6 ounce lump in plastic wrap and put the 2 of those in a bag—that’s in case we’ve got more than 2 to cook for).  It takes about 5 minutes to do when you get home.  You’ve got enough time to do it.

London Broil ground beef

Check with your grocer’s meat department to find out if they will grind meat for you. And ask the meat department manager if they use “pink slime”.  If they do, find out in what products and don’t buy that product anymore if you’re concerned. 

You know, my father was a food safety inspector in the Air Force for 30 years.  After that, he did the same job for the Florida Department of Agriculture for another 20 years.  I remember what seemed to be his favorite word when it came to food.  That word was “wholesome”.  His job was to make sure that the food being processed and provided to people to eat was “wholesome”—that it was safe and fresh and that it met “standards”.

That’s what I think this is all about.  There are a lot of us who wonder and question whether or not “finely textured lean beef” or “boneless beef trimmings” or “pink slime” is “wholesome”.  We’re paying for it at the grocery store and at the restaurant and I think we’ve got a reasonable expectation to know exactly what’s going on and to have any product which contains “pink slime” labeled with big bold letters “contains chemically processed trimmings”.

That's the Cheap Bastid Way:  Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!

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Great idea! Yes, I cannot get my head around pink slime. No school lunches for my kids! And no McDonald's.
Urgh...I've lost my appetite. I have heard of pink slime, but had no idea what it was really made of - no more A&W for me.

Love the Cheap Bastid Cooks. Always amazing recipes and great tips.

Ewww! I am reminded of the old SiFi movie: Solient Green.
I never buy "commercially ground beef." Many grocery stores do actually now grind their own simply for profit. Since so few people can afford the more-expensive cuts of beef, they grind them before the expire--so a lot of the hamburger is actually quite good.
At least it doesn't have pig lips and nostrils and other gristly things, as hot dogs do.
I did a term in a meat packing house and though this was in the eighties, we didn't even make the stuff and the joint did make dog food. I know exactly what those things are that they use to make it, we sold it to glue factories. Even if your grocer won't grind it for you (and Wal Mart will NOT) if you have a decent food processor you can do it yourself. Try to remember that to much processing will make your ground beef rubbery and even though zero fat sounds good it makes for lousy hamburger try not to go lower than ten percent fat. Don't salt it either, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder are okay. Me, I like to toss a little liquid smoke in the blend it gives a nice smoky flavor without having to grill.
Froggy--thanks. I never thought twice about all this until "pink slime" reports came out. I was mostly concerned about contamination and getting the best and least expensive ground beef.

Steph--thanks and thanks for visiting Cheap Bastid Cooks.

David--that thought runs through my head quite a bit. Someday there will be soylent green. Hope I'm not around for it.

Gary--I agree. I haven't bought any pre-ground in about 4 years--it's been about price and more and more it's about quality and "wholesomeness"

ChickenMaan--how true. the thought occurred to me while I was thinking about this and writing that BPI has turned hamburger into hot dogs with this "additive"

Bob--I agree. But I never season ground beef until I cook it and then salt is fine. Plus, hand grinders are still pretty inexpensive and work just fine for a family only doing a couple of pounds or so a week and you can get a grinder attatchment for many stand mixers.
graciousjane--yeah, I've never bought the "tubes"--again over the years my main concern was about e coli and the tubes have a higher risk. As far as using London Broil--I've had a lot of it ground for me and if I'm making hamburgers I'll add a couple of ounces of ground pork (I buy the Farmer Johns links when it's on special--each link is 1 ounce and I'll add 2 ounces to one of my "pounds"--works like a charm. Another way to add moisture without adding fat on 95% lean like London Broil is to add about a quarter cup of worchestershire to your pound of ground beef as you're making patties. It provides flavor and moisture.
Iread about this and could not believe it. Of course so many things are hidden.. Good one Walter.
Linda--thanks. I never gave anything like this a second thought until it hit the media recently. Now, I'm doubly cautious.
Our ancient ancestors ate unprocessed pink slime right off the bone and cracked the bone to get to the precious best protein and fat delicacy: marrow. Many people still do. I love beef tartar!!
jmac--thanks. our "ancient ancestors" probably gnawed the bones and maybe even cracked them to slurp the marrow. But they probably didn't eat the connective tissue. And...if a prep cook in a restaurant drops a hunk of meat on the floor, would you want him/her to pick it up, cook it and put it on your plate? That's another of the ingredients in pink slime--the stuff that gets dropped on the floor and is then scooped up along with effluent and "processed" with the ammonium hydroxide to alter the Ph balance so that it is "safe". No thanks.
I thought the pink slime stuff was what Taco Bell put in its beef tacos. ;)

Now I could really go for a beet burger!
Thanks for this informative read. I had heard about the slime, even used it to convince my daughter to eat fewer McDonald's burgers, but did not know the details.
Reminds me of Armor's Potted Meat product.
I think more *Warning*
Post like this is Needed.

Vadana Shiva travel to WARN.
She is a a Educator ref `Craps.
It's non-fool glue. It's no Food.

Vadana Shiva is worth a Google.
Meats etc., and GMO's may sicken?
Food is radiated. A shelf life of a:
A Strawberry will last until it dries.
Meats will not discolor as brown.
Fruit will not rot. It Withers Up.
Corporate GREED . . . Upchuck.
Eat the cardboard box of cereal.
huh . . .
It's safer than the crap contents.
CEOs have boar meeting at loco

'Wendy's' and 'Arby's' Eat 'Alpo'
The Center For Disease Control?
They know about Toxic victuals.
They just keep Eaters in the Dark.

Thanks for this.
I came back to burp.
Buyers Best Beware.
Look at the ads? Oy!
The editor burp`gin.
Maybe he may retire.
He can 'flip' a`finger.
He can stand @ curb.
He give a mid-finger.
He yell Relaunch @
12:00PM Lunch @
Open Salon again.
Kerry makes me giggle.
He makes me relaunch.
He burp at lunch meal.

Soon it will be high noon.
Maybe we can buy a beer.
I'll buy him 2- 'Fat Tire's.
It never gives a headache.
I think that pink slime is a great excuse for going vegetarian.
Belinda--thanks, and Taco Bell and McDonald's no longer use it but apparently the USDA thinks it's just fine for our kids' school lunches. And--my wife loves Armor "potted meat" which is pretty much the same stuff as you'll find in hotdogs.

bluestocking--thanks. I'd rather never eat anything with this product--at a restaurant or at home. If my kids were still young and at home, there'd be no issue--it wouldn't be consumed.

Art--thanks. it's always an honor to be the inspiration for one of your poems

Sarah--thanks and you're right. It's also an excuse to be reminded of caveat emptor and make sure what we're eating and that it's not some excuse for a big company to make more profits. The key word here is "wholesome" and I don't think this stuff is "wholesome"
I am doing what you do, buying the roast and having them grind it for me! I am so groosed out by this! And this should sefinitely have to be on the labels! R
Jane--thanks. The other advantage of having it ground for you is, if you shop for specials, it's a lot less expensive--oftentimes at least $1 a pound.
When I start missing hamburgers in my new vegan-ness, I just need to come back to this post and read it again. Your suggestion about grinding your own meat is a great fix; eating out would be problematic though. I bet even better hamburger joints use pre-pakaged ground meat.
Oh man Walt. You are right. This is important---seriously.

It also calls to mind a Dan Ackroyd character from when Saturday Night Live was funny. "E Buzz Miller". The bit would be him trying to sell stuff like this to school systems.

I wonder if we are getting better or worse since then at battling crap like this?
The thought of any kind of slime, but especially pink slime, is so gross, I have no desire to find out if it has any flavor to it.
I will ask from now on. Thanks for informing us on what this stuff is all about.
rated with love
Lauren--glad I could be of service to you. We all need to be a bit more vegan. I'm trying to develop some Cheap Bastid recipes for meatless "burgers" bit with flavor.

ChicagoGuy--yep, and the motivation is the same as with Ackroyd's character--foist marginal product off onto those who must be totally budget driven and make a profit at it. I'm convinced that this is 100% profit driven with BPI and others expecting us to just take it--kind of like the petroleum industry.

Romantic--I quit eating hamburgers at "restaurants" (as opposed to fast food joints) years ago--the night my wife and I went to an Islands restaurant here in SoCal and spent $30 on 2 burgers and fries--and the burgers were "so-so" at best. I get my hamburger ground by the meat dept. at the grocery store. That way I pick out the roast I want ground and know that there are no additives--and it's cheaper.
Our school breakfast and lunch programs are disgraceful. I wouldn't feed that slop to hogs.
Belinda--I don't know about hogs but in the past it was used in pet food. It's disgraceful.
This was excellent advice. When I first heard about this, I was thinking about watching sausage getting made. Not a pretty sight, but the sausage tastes great. But, this post made me realize it worse than that and I am going to take your advice. I love the part about having the roast ground up. Great post and should be an EP, EMILY!!!!!
Man, I must be old. There used to be butcher shoppes and bakeries and ice cream parlors and other family-owned businesses...sigh.
I was thinking doing a veg-based foodie Tuesday today. Now you have motivated me.

I suspect pink slime is just one of numerous issues with ground beef. I avoid the stuff like the plague. It isn't even that cheap anymore, I can almost always get a more wholesome piece of meat.

I don't like cooking for people when there is an unnecessarilky highb probability that I am starting wiht tainted food. That is not why I cook.
ScanMan--thanks. one thing I'll do the next time I'm in my grocery store is to ask the meat manager if they use "pink slime" in the meat that they grind, package and sell. Even though I rarely if ever buy my meat pre-ground, I'm curious. I'm guess they do because the store tends to cater to the "lower end" of the economic spectrum (as opposed to a Albertson's or Whole Foods). And yep, I'd rather eat sausage and what goes in it than "pink slimed" ground beef.

Belinda--I guess we're all getting old. Thanks.
Steve--thanks. I started getting my meat ground for me because it was better and cheaper. Now I'm glad I do because I know it "untainted". On my dedicated food blog I've been writing more about vegetables. Seems like I crave vegetables more and more and meat less and less.
I'm with you, Walter. If Pink Slime is "beef" then pond scum is "fish." Count me as another "grind my own beef, please" customer. Thanks for this important heads up.
MaryAnn--thanks for an apt analogy. I love the pond scum comparison! To me it's just another example of how an industry ends up in collusion with a branch of government to figuratively and literally shove something down our throat--and make more profits at the same time.
Mmmm, mmmm, good! Gotta get me some of that slime. Seriously though, I worked in a salmon cannery in the late 80s, and it wasn't only salmon meat that went into those cans, it was also pieces of bone and intestines boiled down in the pressure cookers. Yummy!
Erica--thanks. now I'll have a problem buying canned salmon!
Con--thanks. I wonder how many other people are now going to "pass" on ground beef either in restaurants, at home, or with their kids' school lunch.
I am checking on whether or not I have purchased any of this for my school. The thought makes me cringe but I also need to add if you check the article came out, I was told, in 2009 but has just now been noticed...I had a link to see how this is done but could not bring myself to click on it. I think you have the right idea! I feel sort of sick.

lunchlady--I think you're right. From what I've read this is nothing new either in fast food or school lunchrooms or in retail ground beef. However, from what I can gather, Jamie Oliver is more than a little responsible for raising the alarm on his show dealing with what our kids are eating--especially at school. And this new "deal" apparently managed to capture a lot of attention. I have long had concerns about e coli contamination from fecal matter but I've neve encountered this issue of processed connective tissue, centrifuges and ammonium hydroxide. Thanks for commenting.
More than a century ago, Mark Twain said, "Those who respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made."
David--thanks. I never thought that would apply to "simple ground beef" though.
We get our meat from a butcher shop and have it ground; we've pretty much stopped eating hamburger but we do this with turkey. Even the turkey ground and frozen at the store is pretty disgusting. I'm sure you saw the red meat study that was released this week.
Good post. RRRRR
My son had a friend who worked at a national taco joint. The meat they used was marked "fit for human consumption" and was about Grade D. I will NEVER eat there again.
Bernadine--thanks. and the beef your son cooked at the "taco joint" probably had "pink slime" in it. I'm a "beef-o-holic" but I'm pretty cautious about what beef I buy. No beef stuffed into tubes and frozen or frozen pre-made patties. I usually have it ground (about 90% of the time).
Mmmm...beef by-products!! :D
Tink--just remember, it used to be considered only good enough for pet food--read that as CAT food! Now it's people food.
Hey what's good for the pets, is good enough for you human types!! :D
I am tickled PINK...not! Thanks for the info...
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⋆───★•❥ ☼ .¸¸.•*`*•.♥R
More and more of our friends are doing what you do; purchase a piece of meat in one piece and have it ground up. My father (and I'm retired so that gives you an idea of how long ago that was) used to do that as well. He also had the butcher run a piece of fat through the grinder first.
Chrissie--thanks, I started doing that several years ago to get my ground beef more cheaply and then discovered that it's a safer way to do it with lesss chance of contamination--and now it assures that there's no pink slime.