How do we avoid ‘pink slime’ in our ground beef?

ABC News reports that 70 percent of the ground beef people are buying in grocery stores contains  “pink slime’ or beef trimmings treated with ammonia.

When it came out several years ago that some fast food restaurants were using “pink slime” in their meat we tried to avoid eating hamburgers out and started cooking them more at home. But now with this new report, what’s a mom to do?

From ABC News:

“Gerald Zirnstein grinds his own hamburger these days. Why? Because this former United States Department of Agriculture scientist and, now, whistleblower, knows that 70 percent of the ground beef we buy at the supermarket contains something he calls “pink slime….”

The “pink slime” is made by gathering waste trimmings, simmering them at low heat so the fat separates easily from the muscle, and spinning the trimmings using a centrifuge to complete the separation. Next, the mixture is sent through pipes where it is sprayed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria. The process is completed by packaging the meat into bricks. Then, it is frozen and shipped to grocery stores and meat packers, where it is added to most ground beef.

“The “pink slime” does not have to appear on the label because, over objections of its own scientists, USDA officials with links to the beef industry labeled it meat.”

“The under secretary said, ‘it’s pink, therefore it’s meat,’” Custer told ABC News.”

The Huffington Post reports that according to the Food Safety News a group of food safety advocates who met this week at 2012 Annual Beef Industry Safety Summit was flabbergasted at the level of public outrage over “pink slime.”

So if you are bothered by the idea of pink slime, how can you be sure you aren’t buying it?

From a different ABC News article:

“ABC News emailed the top 10 grocery chains in America. Only Publix, Costco, HEB and Whole Foods responded, saying they don’t use pink slime. No word yet from the rest.”

“A viewer, Miles Herbert, wanted to know, “Is there any evidence that organic meat contains this pink slim?”

“It turns out there isn’t. If your meat is stamped USDA Organic, it’s pure meat with no filler.”

Another food blog I read suggested picking up a roast such as a boneless chuck eye roast and ask someone behind the butcher counter to grind it for you. The food blogger says if they want to keep your business they will and you’ll know it’s 100 percent beef without fillers.

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March 12th, 2012
4:24 am

I get my beef locally raised and butchered. I’ve been to their farm and it’s wonderful to see animals that aren’t factory farmed, have actual pastures to graze in and aren’t confined to feed lots. If you know where your food comes from, you’ll know what is in it.

I pay about twice the grocery store price for my meat, but we don’t eat as much as you probably do. At those prices, I buy cheaper cuts. Hamburger patties are thawing for today.

I almost never eat hamburgers when I eat out. We have an amazing variety of global cuisine here, and our vegetarian options range from Ethiopian to Indian to Chinese. I am in LOVE with General Tso’s tofu.


March 12th, 2012
4:55 am

This is coming from some of the same people who also think they get to throw away a child’s lunch from home because they don’t approve of the nutrition decisions of the parent who packed the child’s lunch?

This country is going insane.

Sam the Sham

March 12th, 2012
6:05 am

Pink slime is used to put ammonium hydroxide into beef. Ammonium hydroxide kills e-coli and makes ground beef from feed lots safe to eat since the cattle are fed corn instead of grass. If you eat ground beef, you ARE going to be eating ammonium hydroxide regardless of the presence of pink slime. Open your minds when you open your mouths.


March 12th, 2012
6:16 am

I read about this in 2009 in the NY Times article. I haven’t touched ground beef that I cannot certify is organic since then. It’s so disgusting, that I’ve never missed fast food burgers! It’s also been a lot healthier!

@Sam the Sham -you are NOT going to eat it if you only eat grass-fed, 100% organic beef, which is what we all should eat and demand.


March 12th, 2012
6:18 am

Easy, become a vegetarian and know where your food comes from. Not always easy in today’s world, unfortunately.


March 12th, 2012
6:19 am

@Jeff -I am definitely not one of the “freak-out” people about nutrition and children’s lunches, but this combined with what some USDA beef inspectors have told me throughout my life is enough to make me back away! It is seriously nasty.


March 12th, 2012
6:20 am

First, it is found in 70% of ground beef surveyed.
2nd, the USDA undersecretary said, “if it’s pink, it’s meat”.
3rd it’s a process that seperates fat and meat with centrifuges and exposes the lean beef to amonia gas. The process kills the pathogens that cause E. Coli. Pink slime as it is called comprises 25% of the meat product.
Lastly, no meat produced by this process has been linked to any illness.
Soooooooo what is the big deal? It is safe and I would guess, keeps the cost to the consumer down.
Labeling it “pink slime” makes one think that is some creature from outer space. Why scare little children with this chracterization?


March 12th, 2012
6:21 am

The more I read about this delicious stuff, the more I am reminded of Frank Zappa’s, “I’m The Slime”.

“I may be vile and pernicious
But you can’t look away
I make you think Im delicious
With the stuff that I say
I am the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozin out
From your tv set”

Don’t know why.
Sheeesh…now, Frank will be chewing on brain cells all day. I am certain that I won’t be able to get this tune out of my mind. Oh well, it is an a– kicking song.


March 12th, 2012
7:14 am

I don’t know the last time I bought ground beef. I just don’t care for beef that much. Now, I do buy ground turkey, so I’m curious if it’s found in any other ground meat. The pink slim does disgust me though. I haven’t bought a fast food hamburger since I heard about it. Again, that’s not a problem since I prefer chicken sandwiches. But I’m just waiting to hear about what’s wrong with chickens.


March 12th, 2012
7:26 am

Another reaso to love Costco. :o) Or I get meat from Patak, or eat buffalo meat instead of ground beef. I’m with RJ on the chicken sandwiches at fast food restaurants, although I am sure there is something nasty about those too!


March 12th, 2012
7:32 am

I read a lot of ‘Xerox’ reporting (can’t call it journalism) in this story – the repitition of surious facts without fact checking and responses that are based on rumor. Where is the data that proves 70%. I can’t find it. The only one who seems to be rational about this issue is Belson.


March 12th, 2012
7:34 am

I know, personally, that if I read about how anything is processed I wouldn’t eat any of it. I try to stay in the dark. I will be buying organic ground beef from now on. I already buy organic chicken after my husband told me stories about a chicken processing plant.
What bothers me is the parents are complaining about this being in the school lunches yet they have no problem taking their kids to McDonalds several times a month. The people I know who are truely concerned about their children’s health and diet have packed their kids lunch all along. Has anybody, ever, thought that school lunches are healthy?
I don’t think that school lunch costs need to go up because people freak out from reading a news article. I’m sure the parents of the kids getting free lunch are not complaining.

On a related note, my husband visited a chicken farmer recently who raises and sells organic chickens and eggs. No wonder that stuff is so expensive. This man has to follow the most ridicoulous government regulations. (seriously lacking any common sense) We could all afford to eat all organic if the government wouldn’t make it so difficult with their “over the top” regulations.

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March 12th, 2012
7:37 am

*reason, geez…I need coffee


March 12th, 2012
7:59 am

@just…I checked the list: Costco and Publix made the list of those stores who do not use pink slime.
Sticking with where I already buy my beef.

Moose Chelle

March 12th, 2012
8:01 am

STEP 1: Avoid McDonald’s & Burger King

STEP 2: Avoid Public School Cafeteria Food

STEP 3: Obey All Steps


March 12th, 2012
8:02 am

@homeschooler -that drives me nuts too! I’ve told so many people we know whose children are the ages of ours about the pink slime in fast food meat. These are people who have been freaking out long before now about school lunches, but they’re at McDonald’s and Krystal regularly! My kids won’t eat fast food ground beef. I don’t let them, but I didn’t have to make any nasty rules. When I found out about pink slime and quit eating it -I told my oldest about it, and he never wanted it again either. The youngest followed suit! I think some people are so enamored of the ease and appeasement of fast food, that they have a mental block or something. I get these “deer in headlight” looks when I talk about not eating fast food or fast food beef, but the same folks foam at the mouth in PTA meetings over everything from bringing cupcakes for birthdays to the school lunches. I don’t get it.


March 12th, 2012
8:11 am

If you haven’t seen it yet look for the documentary ”Food Inc” It will give you a lot more insight into where your food comes from. It is available on netflix.


March 12th, 2012
8:18 am

@just — yes, Patak is awesome — we also purchase our beef from a local farm north of Atlanta and have it butchered to our specs. I cannot speak for the 17-year-old but my wife and I have not had a fast-food burger in what seems like forever.


March 12th, 2012
8:27 am

@ Me- love Patak, but sure hate the lines there!

Buy Locally

March 12th, 2012
8:34 am

I go to the local butcher where I know the meat is grown locally and grass fed only. It’s better meet and it’s helping your local community instead of those big companies.


March 12th, 2012
8:38 am

read “Toxic” you will never look at a burger the same again….let alone attempt to eat it

Michael Symon was on The Chew the other day. He said one of the most important things you can do is make friends with your butcher. That way you know you can trust him. He also recommends grinding your own meats.

Most people today have one of those Kitchen Aid stand mixers, they do sell a grinder attachment for it. My parents had both the mixer and attachement back in the 70s.

It is not just a “movement” folks. There are pleanty of things the Obama’s and I will never see eye to eye on. However Mrs. Obama wanting to feed her kids healthy choices, right from the garden, is one I can certainly understand and support. The stores have tons of seeds, and in GA you can water a food garden even in drought condidtions! So set aside a portion and plant some things….and talk to your butcher.

I am actually thinking of putting up some veggies this year (that is canning to those who don’t speak southern).
I do all white meat turkey breast a good bit, wonder if slime is in that.


March 12th, 2012
8:42 am

You can grind up meat in a food processor. I do it with turkey all the time. I’ve not tried beef, but maybe that’s something we’ll try this week.

I shop exclusively at Publix. I can’t stand Kroger, even though the largest Kroger in the SE is in my neck of the woods, I refuse to go into that store. It is so big, you can’t find ANYTHING in there, and it’s freezing cold all the time…..I love my Publix…..and the thing is, I’ve seen the same employees there for YEARS!!!! So I guess it’s a great company to work for.


March 12th, 2012
8:47 am

Wendy’s doesn’t use it and never has, so if you have a craving for a burger hit up a Wendy’s and avoid McD’s and BK for sure.


March 12th, 2012
8:47 am

love Patak!

@ JATL….I think the cupcakes from home thing was supposed to be about cross contamination. I noticed on the Publix box the other day it said “Warning cooked in same facility as peanuts, milk, egg…et dc” So now can those crazy PTA Moms tell me why I am paying $20 for cupcakes so that Johnny doesn’t die b/c I have peanut butter in my home and run the same risk as Publix if I make them?

I wonder if I send in some pretty markers/pencils for the kids instead of cupcakes how that will be viewed. I mean are kids allergic to that?

K's Mom

March 12th, 2012
8:52 am

HPublix shopper here too and all of the managers know me as does the butcher and sushi chef. Glad to hear their meats make the grade.


March 12th, 2012
9:16 am

While I am mostly vegetarian, I subscribe to a CSA that provides my children’s families with not only organic meat, but the animals have been humanely killed. I can live with that,. Yes, it is costly but we don’t need to eat several pounds of “meat” per day.


March 12th, 2012
9:20 am

So they’ve only heard from 6 chains all stating that they don’t use the stuff, yet this dude is claiing that 70% of supermarkets use it.

He’s full of schlitz. I want to see his data. 70%….with no evidence.

What a douche.


March 12th, 2012
9:36 am

Go Publix!
They do have great meat and will cut or grind to order. Also, their Marketplace ground beef is ground at the store.
Another way to avoid the slime is to go hunting…just don’t shoot your eye out . Venison is terrific. I still have several packs of ground venison, with 10% pork loin for juiciness in the freezer. Ground those myself, along with the cube steaks and quarter roasts. The tenderloin was gone a long time ago…ummmmmm. Plus, I have 2 hides in various stages of process to make baby soft buckskin..
Bambi is tasty and very useful..


March 12th, 2012
9:43 am

Chuck – the 70% fact comes straight from the BPI company that is producing the slime. The company let everyone see what they do in Food Inc. I’m really not sure why they agreed to that. The meat cuts look so gross going down the conveyer belt, and they won’t really let you see the finished product.

I agree with those who say, how can a parent complain about it being in school lunches, but then go to McD’s other times. McD’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King have all stopped using pink slime. I’m still not so sure of the quality of their beef, but it is interesting that they have stopped, but the USDA still thinks it okay to serve to our kids.


March 12th, 2012
9:49 am

If you don’t want this going in school lunches, sign the petition

The petition has close to 175,000 signatures in just 6 days. Some say that petitions don’t work, but to start, it is getting the issue much more attention.

I think at the very least, meat should be labeled if it was treated with ammonia hydroxide. I’d like to know my choices.


March 12th, 2012
9:50 am

Jarvis, carry on eating it then. Don’t be offended by other people that choose not to.
Personally, I don’t buy any beef from supermarkets.
Like Shaggy, we hunt. We get an elk every year and split it between 3 families. The animal enjoys 6 years minimum of complete freedom, living life as it was intended. No hormones, no anti-anythings. Killed quickly and humanely.
Even if you don’t like hunting, talk to your friends, everyone knows someone who hunts, and you can buy some real meat from them.


March 12th, 2012
9:50 am

What is Patak and where are butchers in Atlanta? Or a farmer where you can purchase local beef? I would love to do that!


March 12th, 2012
9:59 am

Guess I now have to me moderated because I provided web site links in order to answer from @tc…


March 12th, 2012
10:00 am

can’t type either — should have been “be moderated” — geez… Sorry about that…


March 12th, 2012
10:08 am

@mary, my point wasn’t to eat it. My point was that I don’t believe it is as commonly used as that freak says it is.


March 12th, 2012
11:18 am

Kroger also doesn’t use it.

So who exactly is included it this vast majority?


March 12th, 2012
11:20 am

Patak is out in west cobb/paudling area. Good german butcher who smokes his meats on site.


March 12th, 2012
11:21 am

@Jarvis, fair enough. I guess I sorta missed your point.

“The plant that produces the “slime,” Beef Products Inc., estimates its ammonia-based product is used in 70 percent of the ground beef sold in the United States. That’s expected to decrease significantly with the recent boycott from fast food chains.”

So it’s not necessarily 70 percent of supermarket products, but 70 percent of TOTAL products, including school lunches, prisons, hospitals and supermarkets.

Still frightening.


March 12th, 2012
11:24 am


March 12th, 2012
11:25 am

It appears it is mostly those frozen prefab burgers or that type from what I am seeing.

Those buying ground in market (ie the butcher areas of the supersmarket) are probably fine.

Looks like it was just sensationalist journalism


March 12th, 2012
11:28 am

@FCM, yes it was, and Theresa perpetuated it.
I’m disappointed.

“Go back to your homes. There is nothing to see here.”


March 12th, 2012
11:38 am

“I’m The Slime” is still in my head…make it stop…Frank is dead and haunting me.
The song isn’t even about meat. It’s about vacant talking heads on tv.


March 12th, 2012
11:53 am

No one has mentioned- if you cook your meat properly, won’t it take care of the ammonia and such? I think it’s gross but if you don’t have farm raised cattle near by, it’s drive forever to one of the “good” places. I’m with those who eat chicken sandwiches and yes, they will probably will tell us something is wrong with them, too.


March 12th, 2012
12:09 pm

Cooking your meat properly has nothing to do with the fact that meat does not naturally contain ammonia.
I worked in a chicken slaughterhouse for 3 years, and the same things are wrong with the poultry you eat. Then entire industry of factory farming needs to go, and only we (consumers) have the power to get rid of it by not supporting the industry. It’s not easy, but think back 10 years. How hard was it to find organic produce, and now there are entire sections dedicated to it in every store.
$$$ talks.
Be the change.

Alberta Spruce

March 12th, 2012
12:21 pm

All they do is sanitize previously unsafe meat by-products using ammonia processing. There is probably only trace amounts of residue left in the product. Not too appealing, but I assure you that there is more free ammonia in an ounce of Camembert cheese than exists in a pound of this “slime”, and it gets imported and consumed by the ton every day and nobody gets sick.

Stop the weird fetishistic food behavior. Your children aren’t going to become sick or die from occasionally eating spaghetti and meatballs, a hamburger, or a kabob. Concentrate on giving them a balanced diet and teaching them about nutrition, not about coming up with a list of foods to deny them, foods that all their friends eat with no ill effects.


March 12th, 2012
12:28 pm

everyone else is doing it, so it must be OK.
Alberta Spruce, I expected more intelligence from a fellow Canuck, or maybe my sarc-metre is not functioning.
Your first sentence says it all…”all they do is sanitize previously unsafe meat by-products…”

I did not realize that not wanting to consume unfood is a fetishistic behaviour, and yes, children can very well die from eating unsafe beef.


March 12th, 2012
1:16 pm

Well yes please cook meats to the correct internal temperatures. Also remember that ground beef and a solid (like steak)have different recommnended tempatures, that is b/c in ground beef the bacteria on the “outside” may be ground and be “inside” the finished product. Steak (unless it is like anthrax or something)should be fine on the inside.

Ginger Jones

March 12th, 2012
1:55 pm

I too am concerned about what our children eat at school or any of us. I’ve not heard of pink slime. I’ve read ingredients on processed foods that stun me on why do we have to eat this stuff? Some say well, we have to put something on our table. Is there something I can do to stop these toxic harmful foods from continuing. The more I read about our water, foods and medications. I felt like I don’t belong here in our own country (USA) any more. Thomas Jefferson has stated that we should have a “Revolution Twice a year”, to protect our “Constitutional rights”. I’ve just wanted to go hold a protest sign for the public to read to just get them to wake up, so they can see that the rich do not care about “We The People Any More”. We are being flooded with toxic chemicals in our water, foods and medications. I am frustrated about what to send our child with for his school lunches. I am about ready to become a “Fruitarian”. I wonder if someone will see my childs fruit lunch and complain to the superintendent at the school, and go to court on it. I did sign the petition below on pink slime.