Finely Textured Beef
More than 2,000 print and electronic news articles published in recent weeks have criticized the beef industry for the production and use of finely textured beef (FTB). Critics are calling it “pink slime.”
“Naturally consumers and customers have questions,”.
In an effort to clarify the facts about FTB, the American Meat Institute (AMI), National Meat Association (NMA), National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA) and processors/packers have been working hard to get the word out about this safe, nutritious, quality and affordable beef product.
FTB is 100 percent beef, 90-95 percent lean, produced at federally inspected facilities, and is found in approximately 70 percent of all ground beef products.
FTB in the news
The controversy surrounding FTB, which has been produced for 20 years, surfaced with the 2008 movie Food Inc, and continues today. Most of the attention has focused on product for which ammonium hydroxide is used as an antimicrobial intervention. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved the use of ammonium hydroxide and citric acid as food safety measures in processing FTB. Many producers of FTB, uses citric acid similar to the type found in fruit.
Some of the most recent news was prompted by the USDA’s announcement that it is buying 7 million pounds of FTB for use in the country’s National School Lunch Program next school year. Going forward, the USDA says it will offer school districts a choice of ground beef patties that include FTB as well as ground beef that does not.
In addition, many reports have misrepresented how FTB is produced. For example, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has described FTB as scraps otherwise used for pet food, and demonstrated how he believed it is produced, including pouring household ammonia over a pile of ground beef. Neither of these points is true.
Finely textured beef is made from beef trimmings by separating lean beef from fat in a process that is similar to separating cream from milk. It is an important way to ensure that no meat is wasted when cattle are harvested for food.
“Americans have been eating, and safely enjoying, ground beef containing FTB for 20 years. Our families eat it and we are proud to produce it. It has value to many FTB producers and our customers, as well as to consumers and cattle producers”.