Pink Slime Returns to Cafeteria Lunches in Four States — and School Officials Allowed It

It wasn't 2 weeks ago I was researching pink slime for a post about what's in fast food.

I was pleased to be able to not report a fast food meal containing pink slime. Then pink slime goes and pops up in the news again.

Pink slime is moniker for the "meat" used in some processed foods, which is really just a conglomeration of leftover meat parts. It's typically used for things like chicken nuggets and chicken patties and pre-made hamburgers. What goes into pink slime is a little unknown and a little questionable, but most reports say it's not unusual for it to contain meat scraps, blood, hair, and more. It's treated with ammonia to kill bacteria, then dyes and flavorings are often added back in to make it slightly more appealing. Not really something you'd want sitting on your dinner plate or your child's school lunch tray.

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But that's exactly where it's making an appearance again: school lunches. Recent reports show pink slime has shown up in schools in four different states. What's worse than pink slime just showing up in school cafeterias is that school officials actually allowed this to happen. Specifically, they allowed the company Lean Beef Inc. to use their product known as finely textured beef in food that would be used in the school lunch programs for the year. Finely textured beef is a slightly more appetizing way of referring to what is also called pink slime. Schools in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, and Illinois ordered the product for the 2013-2014 school year. Schools in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota never stopped using pink slime, even after it was in the spotlight last year. Between the seven states, they ordered more than 2 million pounds of the finely textured meat to be served in their cafeterias.

Aside from just sounding gross, pink slime may contain more E. coli-causing bacteria than other meats. Although it hasn't been firmly settled, the possibility is enough for me to wave a little red flag in my mind. I can't imagine wanting to knowingly serve something that may contain more illness-inducing bacteria than another choice. It is hard to argue, however, with one of the main reasons many schools are choosing to serve the processed product: it's cheap. Beef prices are at an all time high and schools have smaller budgets than ever. It goes without saying what an unfortunate situation this causes school officials and students alike.

-By Heather Neal

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