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
  • Get to the point
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: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

    £18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

    Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

    £Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence