Pink Slime Clarified

ground beef | photo: Rainer Zenz

One reader contacted me asking, “What cafeteria food is made with this pink slime stuff?  I’ve never heard about this and [my son] is now eating in the cafeteria at public school.  He took his lunch every day for four years but not this year.  I was just worried about the nutritional value of what he was eating but now, this is creepy.”

The quick answer to your question is any hamburger product is potentially made with pink slime.  The industry term is actually “lean finely textured beef.”  It is a meat-product made from scraps and trimmings, heated, de-fatted, and treated with ammonium hydroxide.

Current federal regulations say it does not need to be listed as an ingredient and reports suggest that it can be the basis for as much as 50-70 percent of “hamburger” meat.  Although many fast food restaurants are backing away from it in response to consumer disgust, the industry still wants to sell it because it is cheap and profitable.  The USDA has just approved it for school lunches.

News reports indicate that in response to growing outrage by consumers, schools will be allowed to opt out of receiving this product.  Not, however, until next Fall and not until after currently signed contracts have been fulfilled.  I assume there will be schools which will claim they didn’t hear from enough families so they signed contracts and it will continue to be available in the school food for some time to come.

There is a petition being sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (started by Houston resident Bettina Elias Siegel who runs the blog The Lunch Tray) urging a ban of pink slime in schools.  Although I no longer have children in the public school system I am furious that my tax dollars are being spent to feed garbage to children and I have signed.

Current research shows that this product is also in grocery stores.  However, once again, because it is not required to be labeled you may not know.  As of today, March 20, 2012, the most recent list I have been able to find indicates the following:

Pink Slime NOT In Grocery Store:

Costco, Whole Foods, HEB, Ingles, and Publix

Pink Slime ALLOWED In Grocery Store:

Safeway, Stop&Shop, Kroger, Giant, Frys (I’m going to assume this includes Randalls since they are owned by Safeway)

Stores Not Responding About Pink Slime:

Walmart, Food Mart, Fred Meyer  (I’m going to assume this includes Sam’s Club since they are owned by Walmart)

If your store is on the list for allowing or not responding the ONLY way to avoid purchasing this product is to purchase organic ground beef as it is, to the best of my knowledge, fillers are not allowed under the rules of organic production.

About Mira

Mira Dessy is The Ingredient Guru. A holistic nutrition professional, author, and a popular public speaker, she knows that it's not just what you eat, but what's in what you eat. She is the author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in their food. Dessy is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner whose mission is to educate and empower consumers. She curates the Lean Clean Green Subscription box, the premier, organic, earth-friendly, healthy, sustainable subscription box which can be found online at