Nutrition: America awakens to the sour taste of 'pink slime'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The meat product that's in all kinds of US food is causing a very unsavoury row

Take a cow. Chop it into pieces. Sell the edible bits to supermarkets, ship its hide to a handbag factory, send leftover bones and organs to a rendering plant. Now, what's left? In most of the developed world, the answer is simple: pet food. The sinew, gristle and fat regarded as unfit for human consumption are taken away by Mr Pedigree Chum and turned into something the salmonella-resistant stomach of your average Labrador will find vaguely digestible.

But in America, they do food differently. Here, in the land of GM corn, 26 per cent obesity and a government which classifies pizza as a "vegetable", scientists have discovered a way to turn bacteria-ridden scraps from the abattoir floor into a substance called "pink slime", which is then sold to unwitting consumers of hamburgers, tacos and other beef-based junk products. The process involves sticking bovine off-cuts in a heated centrifuge, so they separate into a mixture of liquid fat and a putty-coloured paste. That substance is then treated with ammonium hydroxide (a chemical used in household cleaners and home-made bombs) to kill off salmonella and e-coli. Then it's mixed with regular beef and – hey presto! – you have "all natural" mince.

In 2001, it became legal to sell "pink slime" in America. Today, more than half the ground beef sold in America contains the stuff. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which supposedly regulates the food industry, does not require it to be mentioned on ingredient lists. Since its provenance is a cow, they insist, you can call it "beef". If you think that's a bit rum, you're not alone. For years, US foodies have earnestly cited "pink slime" as exhibit A in the list of liberties taken by a rapacious food industry.

Not for nothing, they argue, has the stuff been banned in Europe, where mechanically-separated meat from cows and sheep has been prohibited since the era of BSE.

It took an Englishman, however, to turn their complaints into national outrage. A year ago, Jamie Oliver jollified the US version of his Food Revolution TV show by using a cow called Scarlet and a tumble dryer to demonstrate how something he calls "crap" became a staple of the American diet. Video of his stunt was uploaded to YouTube, and shared via social media. Opposition to "pink slime" slowly built.

In January, McDonalds announced the removal of "pink slime" from its burgers. So did Burger King and Taco Bell. This month, as the product became a burgeoning national talking point, several major supermarkets went slime-free. School districts were allowed to start banning it and dozens swiftly did. Yesterday, Beef Products Inc, pink slime's leading manufacturer, shut down three of its four plants, citing swiftly cratering demand. According to the American Meat Institute, 600 jobs could now be lost.

"It's a sad day for the families," claimed a spokesman. Though not, one must presume, for their diets.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Restaurant Manager / Sommelier

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Seasonal Placement

    £12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Hotel Receptionists...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Poole

    £12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Recruitment Genius: Lifeguards / Leisure Club Attendants - Seasonal Placement

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn