Have you heard the term "pink slime" in the press lately? It's getting a lot of attention-from the USDA, to the beef industry to schools providing meals to children. We want to feature this topic in this week's blog to highlight our educational mission. We are committed to helping our Red Rabbit followers and school partners gain a better understanding of where our food comes from, and how to make informed choices about the foods we buy and consume, both as a company and as individuals. In this case, both sides of the issue are passionate and adamant about their positions...but, we'll let you decide...
The additive, known in the industry as "lean finely textured beef", is made from scraps remaining after cattle are butchered into cuts such as steaks and roasts. Processors remove the fat from trimmings and as some of these scraps are very close to the bone, organs or other "non-commercially viable parts", they are often treated with ammonium hydroxide (a.k.a., ammonia) to remove the possibility of bacteria, E Coli, salmonella, etc. The product is then mixed with ground beef, making it leaner, according to the industry, but making it more toxic according to others.
Here's the good news: Red Rabbit does not and will not use beef/meat products that use this filler. We source our meat as carefully as we do everything else from our farmers, suppliers and artisans-through a judicious review of their practices, processes and commitment to providing best available ingredients and products. You can feel confident that when you, your students or children order a Red Rabbit meal, you are getting the best ingredients available.
Cargill Inc. has estimated about 850 million pounds of the additive are used in ground beef annually-meaning processors will have to secure other cuts of meat to replace the filler. That is equivalent to 1.5 million head of cattle a year. It is estimated that 70% of ground beef products sold in supermarkets have some form of this product in it and according to the USDA, manufacturers of ground beef can use up to 15% of this filler in a "ground beef product" without specific labeling. We find it problematic that the consumer has no visibility into the existence of this filler, so how can we expect to make informed purchasing decisions? No wonder consumers are up in arms.
The product has been used for nearly two decades and the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it is safe. Consumer advocates reacted adversely when celebrity chef Jamie Oliver detailed its production on a show broadcast on ABC and revived its "pink slime" nickname. The broadcast went viral in social media outlets, resulting in grocery stores and food distributors saying they wouldn't continue selling the product. Click here to see Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution: Pink Slime-70% of Beef Treated with Ammonia.
Warning about this video: It is really not pleasant to watch. The backlash prompted the USDA to tell school districts they could opt out of using beef with such fillings if they so choose in their USDA-monitored school lunch programs and many have stopped...it makes me wonder, as the President of a food services organization, how they started to begin with? Who is vetting ingredients, suppliers and products?
An online petition drive based in Houston has gathered more than 250,000 signatures asking that the product be pulled from retail outlets and school lunch programs. Products that contain the pink slime include fresh retail ground beef, low-fat hot dogs, lunch meats, beef sticks, pepperoni, frozen entrees, meatballs and canned foods.
If you are interested in knowing more about the foods you eat, consider bringing a Red Rabbit gardening or cooking lab to your school, or participating in a Red Rabbit Saturday program with your children (ages 8 and up). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Stay well and enjoy the Spring!
Rhys W. Powell,
President & Founder