WASHINGTON — Gerald Zirnstein, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist, has told ABC News that 70% of ground beef sold at supermarkets contains filler called “pink slime,” a phrase that he coined while working at USDA.
The filler consists of salvage trimmings of beef that are sprayed with ammonia to kill bacteria, then simmered at low heat and then spun in a centrifuge to separate out excess fat.
The beef industry describes the result as “lean finely textured beef” or “boneless lean beef trimmings,” and the USDA does not require its listing as an ingredient on ground beef labels. However, consumer attention to the additive is growing. Bowing to consumer pressure, McDonald's announced in January that it would discontinue the use of the additive.
In an issued statement, American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle said boneless lean beef trimmings are safe, and the process using food grade ammonium hydroxide gas obeys federal rules.
“Some recent media reports created a troubling and inaccurate picture, particularly in their use of the colloquial term 'pink slime.' The fact is, BLBT is beef. The beef trimmings that are used to make BLBT are absolutely edible,” Boyle said.
“In fact, no process can somehow make an inedible meat edible; it’s impossible. In reality, the BLBT production process simply removes fat and makes the remaining beef more lean and suited to a variety of beef products that satisfy consumers’ desire for leaner foods.”