business news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week, MNB took note of an ABC News report that so-called “pink slime,” described as a “cheap meat filler” made from low-grade trimmings, “is in 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets and up to 25 percent of each American hamburger patty, by some estimates.”

One MNB reader, believing that perhaps we had only presented one side of the story, sent us a statement from Beef Products, Inc. about the issue.

Now, the statement is more than 600 words, so we’re not going to run the whole thing. But here are some highlights...

“At Beef Products Inc., we produce lean beef from trim. Trim is the meat and fat that is trimmed away when beef is cut into steaks and roasts. This lean beef is used in hamburger, sausage, ground beef, and as a valuable ingredient in many other foods. We use a natural compound - called ammonium hydroxide, which is widely used in the processing of numerous foods, such as baked goods, cheeses, gelatins, chocolate, caramels, and puddings - to slightly increase the pH level in beef and improve its safety.”

And then, it quotes a diverse group of “experts who follow food quality and safety” on why the beef trim is safe. Here is one favorite...

“Negative publicity about the company's process and the use of the compound ammonium hydroxide, a critical component of the process, is at the heart of Beef Products' recent challenges. This is distressing, because ammonium hydroxide was designated as “generally recognized as safe” for use in food by the Food and Drug Administration in 1974 and it has been used as a leavening agent in baked foods as well as a way to manage the pH in many types of food products since then. In 2001, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the regulatory arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that regulates the U.S. meat and poultry industry, approved the use of ammonium hydroxide as a food safety tool.”
KC's View:
I’m sure that there are two sides to this story.

That said, I’d just like to point out that nothing says “natural compound” like “ammonium hydroxide.”

And that phrases like “generally recognized as safe” don’t exactly make my heart soar.

The experts can say what they want. I was talking to some retailers last week who said that they would never use this stuff in their ground beef. I think, given the choice, I’d rather shop with them.