School Lunches Are About to Be A Lot Less Pink and Slimy

Illustration for article titled School Lunches Are About to Be A Lot Less Pink and Slimy

If this giant pink meat snake does not look appetizing to you, you're not alone. The "meat product," which called pink slime and is made from scrap beef that's ground up and bleached with ammonium hydroxide, has long been a common ingredient in the ground beef used for school lunches. But thank goodness that is about to change. The USDA has just announced that starting next school year, schools can opt out of using beef that has pink slime mixed into it. The move came after districts across the country demanded that the agency stop using the disgusting pink goop, which makes up about six percent, that's seven million pounds, of the beef the USDA buys for the lunch program each year. McDonald's also stopped using it recently, and other fast food chains have as well. The USDA and FDA both swear the pink slime is safe, but mostly people object to it because it looks so foul, not because it's dangerous. You can bet lots of schools will choose not to include pink slime on their menu, since once you know what the stuff is, it's all you can see when you look at ground beef. Blech.

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On ‘pink slime,' school cafeterias will be given more choice [Washington Post]

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DISCUSSION

PommeDeRainette
PommeDeReinette

I don't get the level of horror expressed at this image and the food it depicts.

Yeah, ground up meat (not pretty cuts) and disinfectant look disgusting, but so do many otherwise healthy foods. So does pretty much any food that is mechanically altered by mashing or similar processes (I make amazing veggie burgers, and no one is allowed to see the vile-looking but utterly safe and delicious work in progress because that shit looks like, well - ). So do, in fact, many of the 'traditional' ways of preparing meat that people like Bourdain are so excited about. I've spent enough time coking with depression-raised women (my own grandmother and friends' grandmothers) to have seen that many of the foods they grew up with look foul (hello, home-made sausage; hello meat grinder).

Ammonia is commonly used as a leavening agent, to clean cooking surfaces, and to disinfect foods. It isn't a particularly dangerous chemical product and is probably much safer to consume than food additives that are way more common and raise much less clamour; indeed, it's one of the better chemical additives out there.

This food is ugly. However, most of the riskier things about it (insidious consumption of hormones and antibiotics! prion diseases that could survive ammonia! environmental and ecological depredations of large-scale meat production!) relate to risks inherent to industrial meat production, not to the pink sludgification of that meat. I'm all for feeding kids better quality (in terms of health, ecology, and ethics) meat and feeding it to them less often, but as far as daily meat consumption goes, this sludge isn't more dangerous or less natural than giant slabs of cheap chicken breasts are.