Finely Textured Lean Beef (FTLB) is the proper term, but consumers today know the ammonia treated beef by its more sickening name, pink slime. This rather unappealing term first came to my attention by way of a coworker who stumbled on Jamie Oliver’s video on it a few months ago. In the video Jamie actually demonstrated how the product is made by way of a washing machine, using low heat to separate bits of “beef” left clinging to the trimmings that remain after all the butchering is done. The resulting scraps are then sprayed with ammonia to kill of any bacteria, and the end product looks a lot like lean ground beef.
Since the release of Jamie's clip it seems that I can't go an entire day without coming across the term at least once; people are up in arms over it, and I along with them. The fact that we have been consuming this stuff for years without being aware of it is just the tip of the ice burg when it comes to the problems that I have with pink slime. Shockingly (or maybe not that shockingly), the FDA and the USDA do not require the presence of pink slime to be disclosed on food labels. The chemical used to treat FTLB is ammonium hydroxide, and it is, apparently, widely used as an antimicrobial in food. What else is it found in? Window cleaner, and many other household cleaning products.
I thought that the FDA was supposed to be looking out for consumers. I thought that’s why they mandated ingredients labeling. And yet, the presence of FTLB in beef products does not have to be listed on the label. That, to me, sounds fishy. The companies that make it and the USDA insist that it is safe to eat, and in all likelihood we have been eating it for years without knowing, but it’s a chemically-treated product. Even sunscreens and hair products, which aren’t directly ingested, have to list their chemicals on the label. Why isn’t this chemical labeled? It doesn’t make sense.
Thankfully, now that we know it is out there, it is easy to avoid pink slime. Fast food giants McDonalds and Taco Bell were the first to stopped using it, and in Utah most major grocery stores responded to the public outcry by ridding their shelves of the sneaky, chemical-laced "beef" by the end of March 2012. Still, ask the meat department in your grocery store if they sell anything containing pink slime so that you can be sure to avoid it If all else fails, know that anything labeled 100% Certified Organic does not contain any FTLB.
Even better, why not get your beef from a local source that you can really trust? Like from our friends at UtahNaturalMeat.