Cache County School District avoids “pink slime” controversy

By Tara Alvey

Aggie BluePrint

Photo: false pink slime: mechanically separated chicken. However, it has been the main image circling around the media of what pink slime looks like. courtesy of zerohedge.com

Boneless lean beef trimmings first took stage this year near the end of January, when celebrity chef Jamie Oliver referred to the beef as “pink slime” on an episode of his show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

Boneless lean beef trimmings, or pink slime, are the leftover pieces of meat after the main section of the beef is cut up to make steaks, ribs, hamburger, etc. These left-over pieces are mostly fat. However, there are often times still some thin beef trimmings that can be utilized. The actual beef trimmings are separated from the fat by a high speed mixing bowl that liquefies the fat and separates the edible portion of beef out. Once the beef trimmings are separated from the fat, a puff of ammonium hydroxide is sprayed onto the beef in order to raise the pH level and kill bacteria that could possibly make a person sick if they ate the meat uncooked. And although it may sound ominous, food grade ammonium hydroxide has been declared safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1974. However, despite the FDA’s approval of boneless lean beef trimmings, many people are still hesitant about consuming the product.

“Would I use it myself? I may have already without knowing,” said Karen Hepworth when asked if she would consider consuming boneless lean beef trimmings. Hepworth is school lunch manager at Heritage Elementary School located in Nibley, Utah.

Shortly after Oliver called attention to the product, McDonald’s issued a statement saying that they will no longer be using boneless lean beef trimmings in their meat. Taco Bell and Burger King have also discontinued using the beef product. Then, in early March, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a statement declaring that it had purchased some 7 million pounds of boneless lean beef trimmings to be used in school foods across the country.  In response to this purchase, citizens and parents from across the country raised an outcry against the use of such a product in school food. “I probably would not knowingly buy it for myself or to serve my family until I understand more about it,” Hepworth said.

What boneless lean beef trimmings actually look like. Courtesy of beefisbeef.com

Because of public demand, the USDA amended its original statement and plans to give schools the option of purchasing boneless lean beef trimmings.

“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 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,” the USDA said in a formal statement.

Despite all the concern about the use of boneless lean beef trimmings in school food, parents, guardians, and residents of Cache Valley may not have anything to worry about. “I am the one that makes the decision, not the individual schools,” said Susan King, when asked about who will make the decision whether or not to include boneless lean beef trimmings in school lunches across the valley. King is the child nutrition coordinator for Cache County School District.

“We did not receive any of the beef with the pink slime,” King said. “Our manufacturers did not get this beef from the USDA. We are using pork next year in most of our menus, just because the price of beef is extremely high. It has nothing to do with the pink slime.” Added Hepworth: “Because of the “public’s reaction” to ‘pink slime,’ I would not want to use it in school lunch.”

It looks like she won’t have to do so. Scott Rigby, support services director for Cache County School District, said the Cache County School District has not received any pink slime beef he is aware of and will not purchase any of the USDA-offered substance in the future.

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