Did you know that food processors use ammonia to kill bacteria in low-grade beef?

Oct 05, 2023

Ammonia — that strong-smelling chemical that's in most of your household cleaning products — is commonly used as a food additive, as well as an antimicrobial agent in meat products. The FDA has deemed it safe.

The resulting product, often referred to as "pink slime," is sometimes used as a filler in common beef products.

After meat is treated with ammonium hydroxide, it's put through a sieve-like apparatus to produce a lean meat product.

The FDA calls it Lean Finely Textured Beef, but thanks to former USDA scientist Gerald Zirnstein, most of the public recognizes the chemically-treated scrap meat as "pink slime.

Food processors add the pink slime to certain ground beef to reduce its overall fat content.

If you are eating at a restaurant, this isn’t going to change much about what you are eating because restaurants never had to disclose they were using “pink slime” in the first place. However, grocery stores were obligated to let you know if they were adding it to their beef, so now it doesn’t matter if you ask. They don’t have to tell you. But there are other things you can do to ensure you are not eating a hamburger made of “pink slime.”

There are three choices in front of you to ensure that you are not eating ground beef treated with ammonia, aka “pink slime.”

▪️ Eat Organic or Grass-fed Certified
The organic standard prohibits manufacturers from treating meat with ammonia to fight bacteria. Organic also doesn’t allow the use of dyes to keep the meat looking pinker longer. So picking up USDA certified organic meat is a safer option.

When it comes to grassfed meat, the USDA recently dropped all the grassfed claim standards. That means pretty much any company can make the claim of “grassfed” meat, even if the cow was only 1% grassfed. In other words, unless you are purchasing a cut of meat from a ranch that is certified grassfed from the American Grassfed Association (AGA) or Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO), you could be getting anything.

▪️ Look for grass FINISHED beef
Simply put, grass-finished beef comes from cattle that ate nothing but grass and forage for their entire lives. Grass-fed, on the other hand, may be used to label meat from cattle that were started on a grass diet but have either received supplemental grain feed or are finished on a fully grain-based diet.

In addition to that, your meat could also be labeled “made in the USA” without actually coming from the USA. I wish we were kidding, but the grassfed industry is a bit of a cash cow right now. Buyer beware!

▪️ Pick Up Ground Beef From ButcherBox
One company we know that produces 100% grassfed meat and doesn’t use ammonia to treat for bacteria is ButcherBox. This is a company that delivers grassfed AND grass finished beef, organic chicken, heritage pork & bacon, and wild-caught salmon from Alaska to your door.

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