UT professor answers: What is "pink slime"?

9:39 PM, Mar 15, 2012   |    comments
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The U.S.D.A announced today that schools serving their beef will now have the chance to pick between patties treated with ammonia, a process dubbed "pink slime," or untreated bulk ground beef.

The term "pink slime" sure carries a lot of "ick" factor, but one University of Tennessee professor calls is sensationalism.

Dr. Dwight Loveday of UT's Food Science and Technology Department says to the "Nickelodeon generation" the name evokes oozing goo.

But he says the real "pink slime" looks more like "pellets," and is 100% ground beef.

According to Loveday, pink slime is a processing technique used to separate small amounts of muscle still attached to fatty tissue trimmed off meat.

He says it's heated in the separation process, then treated with a "puff" of ammonia gas to kill bacteria like E.coli and Salmonella.

"It's introduced to the product, it doesn't stay with the product," says Loveday.

The professor, who's spent nearly 30 years working with the livestock and meat industry, says the ammonia is approved for food use and it's a technique that's been around for several years.

He says that while the spotlight is on school lunch meat for now, you can find ammonia treated foods in many of the grocery aisles.

He says some baked goods, cheeses, chocolates, and puddings also use ammonia in their manufacturing. And he says since the ammonia doesn't "stay" with the product, it won't be listed on the label.

But if just the thought of "pink slime" is enough to make your child forgo burger-day at school, rest assured.

Both Knox County and Anderson County schools say they do not serve meat treated with ammonia.

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