Food Safety What is the true cost of meat?

Published on August 12th, 2010 | by Becky Striepe

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Pink Slime in Fast Food Burgers

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McDonalds Hamburger.

In case you needed another reason to skip that fast food burger at lunch, we’ve got one for you. It turns out that several fast food chains include something called “pink slime” in their secret recipes.


Grist reports on pink slime, which is possibly the grossest thing you never knew about fast food hamburgers:

it’s “the cheapest, least desirable beef on offer — fatty sweepings from the slaughterhouse floor, which are notoriously rife with pathogens like E. coli 0157 and antibiotic-resistant salmonella. (Beef Products, Inc. or BPI) sends the scraps through a series of machines, grinds them into a paste, separates out the fat, and laces the substance with ammonia to kill pathogens.”

Pink slime is an additive in 70% of the ground beef in the U.S., which means that if you’re eating a burger, there’s a good chance you’re getting a dose of the stuff. Pink slime isn’t just in U.S. ground beef, though. BPI deals with other countries as well. Not only that, they’re looking to expand their market share, stating that their:

ultimate goal is to have our products incorporated in all ground beef and other further processed meats produced in the United States. Our products can also be found in Canada, Mexico, and Japan with expansion plans for Central America, Europe, and Pacific Rim countries.

How to Avoid Pink Slime

Of course, you could avoid meat all together, but for folks that aren’t quite ready to take the leap, there are some things you can do.

Avoiding fast food burgers is a good start, since BPI uses the additive in ground beef for the fast food industry. Hotel and restaurant food isn’t necessarily slime-free though.

Your best bet is to stick with local ground beef from a farmer you know and trust.

[via The Good Human]

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by slice

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About the Author

Hi there! I'm Becky Striepe, a green crafter and vegan foodie living in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two cats. My mission is to make eco-friendly crafts and vegan food accessible to anyone who wants to give them a go. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



83 Responses to Pink Slime in Fast Food Burgers

  1. Pingback: The McDonalds Addiction and Other Ramblings - 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet Weight Loss Community 20-Somethings

  2. Why THE HELL is this legal? I just don’t get it. Why would the government allow this crap t be secretly put in our food? Are they getting a big kick back? 70% of US beef has this crap in it??? That is just plain disgusting. Shame on the our government and shame on the greedy slobs at the BPI. Go “F” yourselves.

  3. Pingback: Keep Pink Slime Out of Burgers (Petition) – Eat Drink Better

  4. Pingback: Who would Jesus feed? Orlando activists go to jail for feeding homeless – Red, Green, and Blue

  5. I have to wonder where Chef Jamie Oliver and his producers got their information on the recent expose of the USDA contract in LA public school system

  6. M. Burton says:

    For all of you vegetarians and meat haters: the meat packing industry has come along way from the early 30th century, but it’s not perfect. The Holy Bible has sanctioned that all food, including beef is clean, if you eat it with faith and do not doubt what you eat. Finally, eating too much of anything is unhealthy! Americans need to reduce their qualities and extracise more!:)

  7. Pingback: Pink Slime « veganmadness

  8. joe says:

    All jokes aside tho all this article accomplished was to make me crave a burger

  9. joe says:

    i will be sure to ask for extra pink slime on my next double whopper

    yummy yummy in my tummy!

  10. Linda says:

    Not a rumor, this is from the NY Times

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/us/31meat.html
    Officials at the United States Department of Agriculture endorsed the company’s ammonia treatment, and have said it destroys E. coli “to an undetectable level.” They decided it was so effective that in 2007, when the department began routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public, they exempted Beef Products.

    With the U.S.D.A.’s stamp of approval, the company’s processed beef has become a mainstay in America’s hamburgers. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone.

  11. Derp says:

    You guys are ridiculously gullible.

    There clearly isn’t anything called “pink slime” in any food that would be served by anyone approved by FDA. McDonalds most certainly isn’t going to serve you ammonia. You’re on a VEGAN website- of course they don’t want you eating meat.

    And as for the comments about the cattle being mistreated, you’re definitely correct that it’s disgusting and wrong to mistreat an animal, however the cows are not “emotional” creatures. Their brains have not evolved to have complex emotions or even feel pain to the same capacity as humans. I still agree with you that’s it’s wrong to mistreat animals, but I would definitely only eat a burger made out of livestock or wild game versus an animal that I know can comprehend emotion and pain to a fuller extent.

    Please stop being vegan because it’s “cool” or because you read a ridiculous argument like this on the internet. The notion of a bunch of lemmings who refuse to eat meat because it “hurts animals” makes me more sick than the concept of “pink slime.”

    • John Hammer says:

      Derp,

      The only thing I would rate as ridiculous would be your comments.

      As someone with prior experience in the farm and cattle industry I can tell you for a fact that:

      a). Pink Slime (or what is usually left over scraps from a butchered animal) is more commonly called “SH%T” in the processing industry. This is what was usually used for pet food. Further processing and washing in toxic chemicals (Ammonia, etc.) to kill harmful bacteria (such as E-Coli) in theory makes it safe for human consumption -which in turn, the product can be priced higher per pound than pet food. Using “Pink” as a filler is how the 100% ground beef rating can be maintained on the cheap!

      b). It is obvious you have never been around cows for any length of time. Cows definitely are in your words “EMOTIONAL” creatures. I have seen cows show extreme happiness, sadness -even mourning for a separated family member or friend.

      c). I would like to know exactly where you are getting this information that “cows do not feel pain to the same capacity of humans.” I have boxes of vet bills that will prove other wise.

      Here’s an example you might be able to understand:
      Your ridiculously asinine comments have given me a Migraine headache! Can you feel my pain? The fact that I am a whiny human and can communicate to you in a language you understand, you know about my pain -you still can’t really feel it, but you know about it!

      The point is cows do feel pain and more -they are just more stoic than Humans!

      It would serve you well to have some experience on what you speak before you open your mouth and spew your over simplified, utter ignorance in a public forum.

      BTW, I arrived at this site by accident and don’t have a dog in this fight.

    • Kris says:

      Yes it is very real! Do the research. •”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, Beef Products Inc. of South Dakota 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.”

      •”BPI produces more than 7 million pounds of the mash per week, making it the world’s largest manufacturer of this frozen product. BPI explains that its product is mixed into most of the ground beef sold in the U.S. – at major fast-food restaurants, supermarkets, and school lunch programs.”

    • Helene says:

      I have to disagree with you on the emotional and pain sensory capacity of cattle, John. I’m an Iowa farm girl and a confirmed meat eater. Cattle most certainly do experience emotions and attachments, much like household pets, if they are cared for in a personal manner. Obviously, cattle raised in a large herd in a feed lot setting wouldn’t exhibit the same attachment to the people who raise them. That doesn’t mean they don’t possess the capacity.
      Further, to say that they don’t feel pain like we do is just as much Bulls**t as the allegation of pink slime made from floor sweepings. The former is a wish, promoted to ease the guilt some feel from killing to eat. The latter is distorted half-facts, purposefully promoted to discourage meat eating.

    • What an incredibly stupid and uneducated remark. Please educate yourself on the extent to which animals feel pain, not to mention their fear of being stampeded through a slaughterhouse. I wish I could run you through a slaughterhouse, based simply on your comments alone.

    • Dave says:

      It is real, but the name the industry provides is “boneless lean beef”. The product is produced and sold to many fast food giants AND they prefer that you don’t talk about it. The “trimmings” that they call beef are the outer leftovers from slaughter, such as ears, lips, genitals, lower legs, sinew and scrapings. This is then processed to 1. conceal its low quality and 2. remove dangerous pathogens. I am not convinced they accomplish either one. The chemical used is Ammonium Hydroxide. Early in its production people complained about the horrible ammonia smell, so they reduced the ammonia content, which of course raises the danger level. I have three concerns about this whole thing. First, their attempt at hiding the truth, by calling it lean beef. Second, that we are eating such low quality, contaminated parts like ears and penises which used to be good only for dog food, and third, that we are consuming ammonia. Do your research before you claim this is not true, it is, and you can find more about it on the BPI website. When you do, notice what they don’t tell you. And by the way, the USDA and the EPA are not really perfect at protecting folks. Remember when people died from E-coli contaminated beef not too long ago? It does happen. Watch out for yourself, I eat beef but I am careful. You can do the same, or not. Your choice.

  12. Mato Witko says:

    Ugh. Where’s the trashcan, I gotta puke now.
    …So, is grocery store meat safe? I tend to like my burgers still mooing, (meaning raw in the middle) and if this shit is in all ground meat, then I think I’ll just buy bison steak and grind it myself from now on.

    • KK says:

      For the most part, no. Buy your meat from a local farmer through craigslist. You can also have a butcher grind your beef for you, but there’s really no way to know if the beef they already have pre-ground is slime free or not…unless you watch them grin it ;)

  13. laurin says:

    Ewwwwwww

  14. Pingback: Part of your child’s healthy school lunch: Pink slime – Red, Green, and Blue

  15. Zathan says:

    “Of course, you could avoid meat all together”

    Nice agenda. Nullifies any integrity.

    • Brandon D. says:

      I don’t think that a mere dietary suggestion constitutes an agenda, zathan. Also, as a discerning human being, you are allowed to ignore the suggestion without discounting the rest of the article. I honestly don’t know what to make of the offense taken at the mere suggestion of vegetarianism. And I do eat meat.

    • Laura says:

      If wanting humans to stop consuming and wasting so many million of tons of dead animal is an “agenda”… it’s a pretty selfless agenda, and the most sympathetic, humane, and evolved one I can think of.

    • It’s not so much an agenda as something that’s on my mind. I’m vegan, so not eating meat just strikes me as a solution when I read about things like this, you know what I mean?

      It was a single sentence in the post, and only a suggestion. I am sorry to hear that my beliefs are so offensive to you that even mentioning them negates everything else in the article.

  16. Mark says:

    Man, you give industry an inch and it takes a mile. These money lovers will do anything that they can get away with to make a buck. And then for the EPA to resist inspection is only an opportunity for an already evil empire with means and motive to cheat and manipulate their way to a good bottom line. Government is probably getting a fat bribe in the form of some kind of donation from corporate to stay out out of it. After all, evil money sucking morans like this will do ANYTHING to increase profits that they can do. Or Perhaps the EPA allows this in some twisted attempt to reduce life expectancy and population in an overcrowded world where people have never lived longer, unless you accept the Old Testament claims of people living 900 years and so on and so forth. By the way, I do beleive that, but it is not really relevant to life today so if you disagree, so what! What does matter is that a lot of us blindly trust what we eat and that mentality must change before it’s too late!

  17. werner bock says:

    Leave it up to Big Business, Big Government and last but not least the “Experts” to let you “Rest a lot earlier in Peace” than you anticipated. You bought into all of their lyes, speak advertising, and that is what you get, so dont cry me a river, you didnt cry, when you send most the farmers down the river of extinction. Suck it in and deal with it. I am tired of always picking up the peaces after stupid and uncaring people.
    werner

  18. teresa says:

    OMG, you never know whats in your food, did you know peanut butter-5 kinds was removed for 3 weeks because of rats in the mixers? also I have opened a can of cream corn and found a grub looking worm in the bottom of the can, so please there is shit in everything we eat, if you have a weak stomach never go thru a factory where food is prepared, you will never eat again!!!!!!

  19. Pingback: Taco Bell Sued for Selling Fake Meat – Eat Drink Better

  20. LINDA says:

    I saw alot of cows going to the fast food restarants. My friends family ran, and still do a large Meat market here in South Carolina. The cows had cancer and tumors! It was horrible. One had a protruding tumor of the eye and the eyeball was on the end of it!!! This is true. I asked him why do they not put them out of their misery. He said,”They cut the bad part off!” Those are going to H__dees. I have never ate a burger from there since. They process them and you do not see everything at the slaughter houses. Believe me I have seen it with my own eyes. You would never eat at a fast food restarant again. 10 cents a pound they pay for the cancer cows. Some had infected broken legs and bones protruding through the skin! Suffering. I say eat more deer meat and wild game. The rich are greedy and do not care what YOU eat as long as their bank account gets fatter!

    • Michelle says:

      This is why Im a vegan. If you think the way they treat beef cattle is bad, you should see the way they treat milk cows. It makes me feel ill thinking about it. These may not be people, but they are living, emotional animals that feel pain and distress just like anyone else. I’m sick of people not caring because animals are less intelligent. Would you not care if a mentally disabled child was tortured and slaughtered? Or a small child? Just because they arent as intelligent?

      • Cathy says:

        And hormones given to dairy cows to produce more milk also causes lesions at the injection site and mastasis
        that is treated with antibiotics that may or may not stay in the milk or meat. Cows taken off of these tend to have deformed calfs, if they survive to breed.

  21. Jeff D. says:

    Wow, a vegan trying to convince people to not eat meat, who would have guessed? And, of course, said vegan exaggerates, lies, and uses no longer valid data.

    And for what? You want to gross people out to convince them to not eat meat? Reality check, living is gross. Everything you eat is given an acid bath to accelerate decomposition, so that we can leech nutrient out of the rot. Sex generally involves one person sticking parts of their body inside someone else’s body, maybe spraying some fluids around, too. Birth? Yessir, nothing like passing something the size of a watermelon out through an opening the size of a donut, which also happens to be some of the most sensitive flesh in the body as a bonus.

    • Linda says:

      That is the stupidest comment about eating meat I have ever seen. Giving birth and making love have nothing to do with beef.
      Maybe your food is acid bathed when you eat it because you have stomach acid. I myself will not eat rotten meat or veggies. And there is no nutient in it except to a maggot.

      • Jeff D. says:

        I don’t eat rotten meat either. Or rotten vegetables. But I know it decomposes inside of my body. If it didn’t I would get no nutrient from it. The nutrient must be released from the plant and animal matter in order to be absorbed into the body. This is why it is crushed, ground up, and bathed in acid. It needs to decompose so that the intestinal tract can absorb nutrients from it.

        Before you talk about who or what is stupid I would recommend not being ignorant.

        • Jessica says:

          Food doesn’t decompose inside of your body. If it did, we’d all be dead. The body breaks it down. Please read a biology book.

          • CT says:

            To decompose does mean to break down. You’re thinking of rotting, which involves bacteria breaking it down as opposed to stomach acids breaking it down.

  22. er says:

    hmm i thought the title of this article was in reference to the fake, irradiated-yet-unripe substance that passes for tomatoes these days.

    i feel bad for u kids.

    and btw do I believe that sweepings off the slaughterhouse floor were going into hamburgers, even before 2004? hardly. MSM is one thing, but sweeping it off the floor is another. gimme a break.

  23. Damian says:

    This post is a lie people. According to snopes the “pink slime” has been banned since 2004 and meat isn’t soaked in ammonia. Here is the link: http://www.snopes.com/food/prepare/msm.asp

  24. Mr Obvious says:

    The only pink I can see on my LCD monitor is where the mayo is going over the tomato and mixing with the juice of it.

    I see no other pink slime…HOWEVER, if you refer to the meat being pink slimy, my LCD monitor shows it light grayish cooked meat color, just under cooked for my taste.

    Expect pinkish white in uncooked and undercooked meat. Medium/medium rare and others donneses<–whats the plural on that :)

    • Faye says:

      Pink slime is MIXED IN with the ground meat as a filler, so of course you’re not going to see it in the picture.

  25. Trip says:

    Wendy’s does not use “Pink Slime”. However, Both McDonalds and Buger King do use them as it saves about 10 cents per pound.

  26. renee says:

    if you look carefully its a TOMATO… do you see the seed dripping off it? pink slime? like omg

  27. Jeff says:

    This is simply not true, and hasn’t been in beef-based burgers since 2004:

    http://www.snopes.com/food/prepare/msm.asp

    • Pam Kelly says:

      Actually, if you read the entire Snopes piece, MSM is permitted when using pork. The label has to state that Mechanically Separated Pork has been used in the manufacture. MSP or Mechanically Separated Poultry is still legal and is still used in hot dogs, as is MS Pork. MS Beef is not permitted due to Mad Cow.

  28. Pingback: Mechanically Separated Chicken? Chicken Slurry? Pink Goop? [VIDEO] – Eat Drink Better

  29. Joe says:

    It hasn’t killed me yet.

  30. Susie says:

    This is so gross…It makes me really glad I’m a vegetarian hahaha. I posted this on my facebook so other people can see because that’s extremely disgusting.

  31. Monty says:

    Would you please find out Who BPI is; that they have the power to put these products on the market! Has the FDA taken a back seat again in FINDING AND FIGHTING THESE COMPANY’S THAT CHEAT AND PUT THE GENERAL PUBLIC AT RISK! THANK YOU

    • The fact you do not even know who BPI, or been in a facility of owned by BPI should dissuade you from commenting, yet you do, BPI, and Cargill and the likes are heavily audited by both manufacturing and FDA audits and adhere to strict rules of the food industry, and if you for a second don’t think that anything you eat is not held by these same standards you are wrong and should carefully and just as scrutinizingly look at what you’re eating on a daily basis.

  32. Rachel says:

    Allll Right.

    So If I “like” this post, via facebook…it comes up on my page as “Rachel likes Pink Slime in Fast Food Burgers”.

    Sorry, I cannot like it, on the grounds of what is implied there…but it is an article people need to hear. Anything that will help gross people out of fast food is a.ok in my books.

    • Haha! Thanks for spreading the word in whatever way makes you comfortable. I think that if you paste a link into Facebook, it won’t add the “like” to it, if that helps. :)

  33. McCheese says:

    It’s still delicious and generally safe to eat.

  34. Pingback: Mad Cow with Pink Slime « Food Thinking

  35. KH says:

    Thanks for the great article! Just makes our decision to turn to buying our own cow and having it slaughtered the way we want even more of a great decision. Not to mention that EVEN if pink slime isn’t really true, do you really want to eat meat finised off with GMO corn and then pumped full f antibiotics and hormones b/c the cow can’t handle the corn it’s eating?!

    All you have to do is watch Food Inc to know that they way your meat is processed is sub-standard.

  36. Ken W says:

    Apologies if I don’t take the BS of a story you’re serving here. “Pink Slime”, really? I highly doubt this “slime” is from floor trimmings, full of E Coli and allowed to be served to the public.

    Nice try though…

  37. Reader Guy says:

    Wow – This is a really insightful piece. So well written and clearly factual, “pink slime” hmmm that’s what they call it? Not Boneless Lean Beef like their website says? Trimming from the floor…really? I don’t think the USDA would accept that and I ‘m sure their customers would not. It’s sad that someone like yourself is so clearly misinformed but yet has the notion to write on a subject without doing any due diligence. Far be it from you to let the truth get in the way of a good story. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for clarifying the name! Still, I don’t think having a different/less offensive name for the product negates the issues with it, like the ammonia content and the tendency to harbor e. coli. What do you think?

      • Reader Guy says:

        Becky – When you throw language around like “harbor e.coli” and “ammonia” it just sounds like you are sensationalizing something and not basing your comments off anything other than the melodramatic opinions of others. I have a history and knowledge of the global protein supply, the microbiological issues the beef industry faces as well as the innovations and methods in place to try and rid the beef supply of E.Coli O157:H7.

        While I’m not for or against the company that you are attacking you must consider that the whole thing could be looked at from a completely different angle. For instance the trim that they purchase 30% lean and 70% fat is not used by the beef packers / processors due to the fact that they do not have the technology or man power to harvest the lean meat from it, trust me if they could they would. It took this company to develop a method that can make that happen, in essence no animal dies in vain on their watch (something to be said for that) sounds to me like all the usable protein is harvested from the beast and goes into the food supply (good thing right). The notion that the trim is swept from the floor is non-sense, understand that would never be allowed to happen period.

        The utilization of ammonia as an anti microbial is very interesting. It’s actually a naturally occurring compound in the meat and the fact they figured out a way to make it work is impressive. Trust me the industry uses things like acid and such all the time. Trying to push people to purchase beef from local farmers is a very bad idea. Many of the independent processors have less than standard dressing standards and I know first hand stand a much higher chance of putting out contaminated product. You and I both know that people will always eat meat and there will always be demand for it. The notion of back to the farm, while a good one, is not at all practical for the masses.

        I know the whole idea of slaughtering an animal and eating it is tough for some to handle but don’t be blind to the fact that it will continue to happen and innovative companies will always be looking for new ways to maximize yield. It is what it is.

        • Thanks for sharing all of that information! As you mention at the end, part of what gets me is absolutely the idea of meat in general.

          I’m not sure I agree about it being dangerous to encourage folks to get their meat from farmers they know or trust or that it’s a given that folks will always eat meat, but I appreciate your point of view!

          • Jarrod says:

            Becky, as a meat eater, I just want to say thank you for not resorting to the kind of online tough-guy arguing that most people (this thread included) are so quick to adopt. It takes a lot to swallow your pride and keep things civil for your part.

            I’m not likely to ever become a vegan, but if anyone was going to come close to convincing me, it would be someone like you.

    • What?! Why does the USDA care? They allow dangerous drugs,and meat products to saturate the market.Never do they take responsibility for the heart attacks,strokes,kidney failures,and liver damage attributed to things that they said could be sold to us and they were reasonably safe. You an just an expendable commodity.

  38. john says:

    yeah right, like people know of farmers who sell their own beef.

    • Folks can absolutely get to know the farmers producing their meat. Whether you search Local Harvest for a meat CSA or hit up your local farmers market, there are lots of outlets for finding locally produced animal products from farmers you know.

    • bella says:

      Umm John, you can buy a whole cow and keep it on a local farm then have it killed and cut down any way you want it… just sayin’

    • Robert says:

      Well, I do. (or could, anyway). I buy 100% organic raw milk and other dairy products from Organic Pastures Dairy. They will soon be selling free-range organic eggs. I can’t wait! And while I have yet to buy any, they sometimes have ground beef available at the Farmer’s Market. And the guy’s name is Mark McAfee. While we haven’t met, I’ve seen several of his YouTube videos.

  39. oh wow… but in my country, malaysia, most, if not all, fast food restaurants like KFC & McD must be registered and checked by an GO called JAKIM for their food to be considered HALAL since its an islamic country. so i wonder if they do checked about this whole pink slime issue~ >____<

  40. E>M> says:

    so where does the name pink slime come from is that something the writer came up with?

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  42. Ryan says:

    Oh jeez. I'm sorry. I completely looked right past that sentence!

    DURRR.

  43. Ryan says:

    "Your best bet is to stick with local ground beef from a farmer you know and trust."

    Or, um, just not eat meat. That would be the *best* bet.

    • eatdrinkbetter says:

      I totally agree! That's why my first suggestion was that "Of course, you could avoid meat all together."
      :)

    • Rob says:

      Yes, malnutrition is always the answer.

      • Robert says:

        malnutrition? Bitch please.

      • Some people do better with vegetarian/vegan diets than others: some people are “carb” types, and would probably do OK without meat. Others, like myself, are “protein” types, and fare poorly without at least SOME animal source food in their diet.

        If you’re doing vegan/vegetarian and you truly feel good, then continue. If you’re doing vegan/vegetarian and you feel sick, depressed, achy, etc., then your body probably needs some animal products in your diet. It’s not a moral failure to eat meat/eggs/dairy. And contrary to popular opinion, there ARE some producers who treat their animals humanely, feed them the food their bodies were designed to eat, allow unfettered access to the outdoors, and provide a health-promoting product to those who wish to buy it.

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