All but three states have opted out of ordering the controversial beef product famously dubbed "pink slime" for their school lunch programs says the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska will continue to buy ground beef with added lean finely textured beef (LFTB), ammonia-treated scraps that are used as filler.
Related: "The Making of the Term "Pink Slime"
The widespread use of LFTB caught the public's attention in March when food columnist and mother Bettina Siegel launched a petition to ban it from the National School Lunch Program. Within a few days, it received over a quarter of a million signatures.
While the USDA says the product is safe to eat, many consumers were surprised (and grossed out) to learn that much of the ground beef they had been purchasing for decades contained "pink slime." LFTB doesn't have to be labeled and it is estimated that it can be found in 70% of conventional ground beef (it has never been allowed in organic meat). Due to public outcry, the USDA agreed to let schools opt out and many supermarket and fast food chains including McDonald's and Taco Bell also discontinued selling meat with the filler.
The USDA reports that by May 18, about 20 million pounds of beef without the filler only about one million pounds beef that may contain LFTB had been ordered by schools.
The meat industry has been hit hard by the rejection of "pink slime." Cargill and Tyson have both reported declines in beef revenue since March. South Dakota based-Beef Products Inc (BPI) the largest producer of LFTB, has announced that it is closing three of its plants (located in Texas, Kansas, and Iowa) at a loss of about 650 jobs.
Craig Letch, the company's director of food safety and quality, said in statement, "Based upon the misrepresentations that have been pervasive in the media to this point, it comes as no surprise that the majority of states have currently elected to purchase ground beef that does not contain lean finely textured beef." The company has also set up a website, beefisbeef.com, to dispel what it maintains are myths about the product.
On her website, thelunchtray.com, Siegel calls the move away from "pink slime" by schools "a victory."
Also on Shine: