Skip navigation

Industry Reacts to 'Pink Slime' Filler Accusations

WASHINGTON — Fallout continued last week over comments that a former U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist made to ABC News regarding a common filler product used in ground beef.

Gerald Zirnstein told ABC that 70% of ground beef sold at U.S. supermarkets contains “pink slime,” a term he coined while working for the USDA to refer to “lean finely textured beef” or “boneless lean beef trimmings.” The filler consists of beef trimmings that have been treated with ammonia gas to kill bacteria, and then simmered at low heat and spun in a centrifuge to separate out excess fat. 

Zirnstein’s pejorative term has been used by detractors of the ingredient for several years, but social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have given a sudden boost to public awareness and public criticism.

In January, McDonald’s announced plans to discontinue use of the additive. Burger King and Taco Bell have made similar commitments.

An online petition to remove the ingredient from food served at U.S. schools was launched by a blog called “The Lunch Tray” earlier this month. It had gathered more than 220,000 signatures as of last week. The USDA announced on Thursday that beginning this fall, all schools involved with its national school lunch program will have the option of choosing between 95% lean ground beef patties made with the ingredient, or choosing less lean ground beef without it.

American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle defended the ingredient in a public statement, describing it as “a safe, wholesome and nutritious form of beef,” and even arguing that it should be given credit for being a sustainable use for beef that would otherwise be discarded. “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,” Boyle wrote.

In a follow up report ABC News said it called several of the largest U.S. supermarket chains, and only Publix Super Markets, H.E. Butt Grocery Co. and Whole Foods Market said that they did not use the ingredient. Most supermarket chains contacted by the network did not respond.


TAGS: News Meat
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.