“Beef… it’s what’s for dinner,” is a phrase many Americans can remember airing on television commercials several years ago. The fact is, beef is also for breakfast, lunch, and often, a mid-meal snack in the form of beef jerky—a longtime favorite.
Ribeyes, T-bones, sirloin steaks, hamburgers, and for almost two decades, lean finely textured beef (LFTB) have all been favorites of consumers at restaurants and grocery stores worldwide.
So, what is lean finely textured beef? It’s exactly what the name implies: lean, 100-percent beef. When the prime cuts of beef are made—such as the ribeyes, T-bones, roasts, etc.—there are trimmings of fat removed from around these prime cuts. These fat trimmings also contain some meat.
A technology developed by Beef Products Inc. (BPI), based in South Dakota, utilizes this meat from the fat. It is properly called lean finely textured beef, or as you may have figured out by now, what has come to be called “pink slime” in a media frenzy earlier this year.
The raw material that BPI uses is federally-inspected, high-quality beef trim. BPI uses an innovative process to lower the fat content of these trimmings. This lean beef is then used in ground beef, sausage and many other foods.
The component that makes these LFTB trimmings safe is a naturally- occurring compound called ammonium hydroxide, which has an antimicrobial effect. Ammonium hydroxide is found naturally in all proteins we eat—plant or animal—and one of its roles is to prohibit bacteria from forming. This same compound is used in making puddings, cheeses, chocolates, baking powder and processed foods.
To put this into a perspective that many of us can relate to, ammonia hydroxide-based compounds can be found in every component of a bacon cheeseburger (bun, bacon, cheese, condiments and beef), from naturally-occurring levels to the small amounts used to make food safer.
Food safety experts, academics, consumer groups and government leaders agree that lean finely textured beef is safe and nutritious, and it is quality beef. USDA Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Sciences Kevin Concannon states that “LFTB is safe, leaner than other beef sources on the market, and less costly.”
Dr. Russell Cross, professor and department head of animal sciences at Texas A&M University says, “I approved the use of this product in food when I was administrator of FSIS (USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service), because it is safe and an excellent source of nutrients. In this age of sustainability, it would be insane to waste millions of pounds of excellent protein.”
Nancy Donley, founder of STOP Foodborne Illness, states, “There has been a lot of misinformation swirling around… about lean beef trim produced by Beef Products Inc. I have personally visited their plant, and… calling their product ‘pink slime’ is completely false and incendiary. Consumers need to understand that… the use of ammonia hydroxide in minute amounts during processing improves the safety of the product and is routinely used throughout the food industry.” iBi