According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), most school districts are ordering ground beef without added “lean finely textured beef” (LFTB), popularly known as pink slime. The school districts opt out of pink slime because the government gave them a choice this spring.
Only three states have ordered LFTB-enhanced ground beef through the National School Lunch Program: Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Those orders total 1,000,000 pounds as of May 18, 2012. More than 20,000,000 pounds of ground beef without LFTB have been ordered.
South Dakota is the state where Beef Products Inc. (BPI), the company that created LFTB, is located. Iowa’s Governor Branstad sent a letter to all Iowa school districts asking them to order ground beef containing LFTB.
After the story broke that LFTB, which is made by heating, centrifuging, and treating fatty beef trim to capture lean tissue, was routinely added to ground beef, consumer groups and consumers were outraged. The USDA has confirmed that the product is safe, but many consumers did not want to feed their families a product that was highly processed.
Beef trim is more likely to contain pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli 0157:H7 and other STEC bacteria, so LFTB is treated with ammonia before it is frozen, packed, and shipped. Some politicians claimed that LFTB is an “important tool in the fight against childhood obesity”, but our calculations proved that the product only saves about 18 calories per serving, not a significant amount.
As a result of the controversy, BPI Inc. has closed three of its four plants in May 2012, and ground beef processor AFA Foods declared bankruptcy in April 2012.