About Pink Slime

Pink slime is a term coined by Dr. Gerald Zirnstein, for boneless lean beef trimmings or similar products that have passed through a centrifuge. The product is sold in the US by a number of beef processing companies, including Cargill Meat Solutions and Beef Products, Inc. The lean beef sold by BPI has become known for increasing the pH of the beef trimmings by adding ammonium hydroxide to destroy pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella, while the Cargill product uses antimicrobial treatments that lower the pH. This beef product is USDA-approved and is a component in the majority of ground beef in the United States, in which up to 25 percent of the additive beef is used in the final product.


The typical beef production process results in beef trimmings, consisting of fat and meat, that frequently had been cooked down to recover the oils from the trim because it was not profitable to otherwise separate the meat from the trimmings. However, today much of these beef trimmings are sent as USDA-approved cuts of meat to special separation plants, where centrifuges separate the beef from the fat.

The production process was pioneered by Eldon Roth, who in the 1980s founded Beef Products Inc., to produce frozen beef. In the 1990s, in the wake of public health concerns over pathogenic E. coli in beef, Roth developed a process to use a puff of ammonia gas to raise the pH and kill any pathogens that may be found in beef trimmings purchased from other meat production houses.

Nancy Donley, president of Safe Tables Our Priority, Carol Tucker Foreman of the Consumer Federation of America’s Food Safety Institute, and other food safety experts support the technology-based approach to food safety.

Food safety experts in 2011 acknowledged the role of such processes in protecting the United States’ food supply against events such as the European E. Coli outbreak.

On December 24th, 2011, McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell announced they would discontinue the use of BPI products in their food. BPI officials said they still have other fast-food chains as customers but would not identify them.


According to the Washington Post, the process involves taking USDA-approved beef trimmings, separating the fat and meat with centrifuges, then squeezing the lean beef through a tube the size of a pencil, during which time it is exposed to ammonia gas. The combination of the gas with water in the meat results in a reaction that increases the pH, lowering acidity and killing any pathogens such as E. coli.

In July, 2011, Beef Products Inc. announced that it would become the first beef processor to voluntarily begin testing for an additional six strains of E. Coli. According to the New York Times, the launch of this type of testing stems from the recent E. coli outbreak in Europe and frustration at delays by regulators to classify new types of E. coli as adulterants.

At the end of the process, the beef is at least 90 percent lean and is used in meat supplies across the country. It rarely comprises more than 25 percent of the final meat product that consumers purchase and eat.


A December, 2009, New York Times article called into question the safety of the meat treated by this process, pointing to occasions in which process adjustments were not effective. The following week, the paper published an editorial, “More Perils of Ground Meat,” reiterating the concerns posed in the news article. Several days later the editorial was appended with a retraction stating that it had “mischaracterized the safety record of ground meat produced by Beef Products Inc” in the original news article (since corrected). Furthermore, as of January 12, 2010, “No meat produced by Beef Products Inc. has been linked to any illnesses or outbreaks.”

An episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution depicted his interpretation of the production process, in which Oliver douses beef trimmings in liquid ammonia in front of parents. Food safety expert Dr. Gary Acuff of Texas A&M University was interviewed about the process in response to the Oliver segment.

Source: Wikipedia


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