Moral Low Ground


USDA Whistleblower Gerald Zirnstein: 70% of US Supermarket Ground Beef Contains Ammonia-Treated ‘Pink Slime’

A former United States Department of Agriculture scientist is warning American consumers that 70% of ground beef sold in the nation’s supermarkets contains ammonia-treated ‘pink slime.’

ABC News reports that Gerald Zirnstein, the USDA scientist turned whistleblower, originally coined the term ‘pink slime’ in reference to what the government and beef industry call “lean beef trimmings.” That’s a euphemistic name to describe the concoction of connective tissue and scraps treated with ammonia and other nasty chemicals usually reserved for dog food and rendering that the government has approved for human consumption. ‘Pink Slime’ is manufactured by Beef Products Inc. (BPI), based in South Dakota.


In fact, as Moral Low Ground reported on Tuesday, the USDA is purchasing seven million pounds of ‘pink slime’ to be served in hamburger and other meat products in the federal school lunch program.

“It’s not fresh ground beef,” Zirnstein told ABC News. “It’s a cheap substitute being added in.”

“They’ve taken a processed product, without labeling it, and added it to raw ground beef,” the scientist told The Daily. “Science is the truth, and pink slime at this point in time is a fraudulent lie.”

‘Pink Slime’ gained national notoriety due to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution TV program, on which the host attempts to reform school lunch programs to reduce childhood obesity.

Fast-food companies such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell have stopped using ‘pink slime’ in their food. But apparently the government believes the stuff is just fine to serve to millions of American school children.

“I have a 2-year-old son,” Zirnstein told The Daily. “And you better believe I don’t want him eating pink slime when he starts going to school.”

How did the questionable product end up such an ubiquitous presence in our nation’s schools and supermarkets? According to The Daily, JoAnn Smith, the former undersecretary of agriculture appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, is accused of pushing the product. Before being appointed to her government position, Smith was the president of both the Florida and National Cattlemen’s Associations. The government’s approval of pink slime led to a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars for BPI.

Moreover, after stepping down from her government job in 1993, Smith was appointed to BPI’s board of directors, where she was paid at least $1.2 million over the following years.

“Scientists in D.C. were pressured to approve this stuff with minimal safety approval,” Zirnstein claims.

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  1. Stephen OgleyMarch 9, 2012 at 12:33 pmReply

    Sensational misrepresentation. Our grandmothers used to boil up the bones and call it stock. We used to consume it quite happily. It’s probably more nutritious than the butter you spread on your bread and will do you no harm. The USDA regulates the proportion used in meat products.

    • Brett WilkinsMarch 9, 2012 at 12:43 pmReplyAuthor

      You go ahead and feed ammonia-treated beef to your kids, then. Oh, and that’s not all– ‘pink slime’ also contains propylene glycol, a substance similar to that found in antifreeze, ammonia sulfate, the bleaching agent azodicarbonamide and the buffering agent sodium acid pyrophosphate.

      And if you think the USDA is a reliable regulator, I’ve got some “lean beef trimmings” to sell you. The USDA is no better at regulating our food supply than the SEC is at keeping the Wall Street banksters in check.

      I don’t use butter.

      • Stephen OgleyMarch 9, 2012 at 5:03 pmReply

        Jamie Oliver was wrong in saying ammonia was used. Pink slime isn’t treated with ammonia, it’s treated with ammonium hydroxide, which is very different. It’s a chemical that occurs naturally in the body and is an ingredient that is used in some baked goods. When you did chemistry at school, did they teach you that sodium is deadly, chlorine is deadly but sodium chloride (salt) is perfectly safe?

        Propylene glycol is not the same as ethylene glycol. Just because they both have ‘glycol’ in the name doesn’t mean they have the same effect. Propylene glycol is a safe ingredient used in sauces, glazes, bagels and hotcakes.

        Quoting incorrect facts helps no one.

        • RachaelMarch 9, 2012 at 7:52 pmReply

          Dude. Your grandmother called it stock because it was stock. A person who wants to make stock always boils bones in order to make it. That’s what you do. The flavor and nutrients comes from the bone marrow. Duh. Whether a thousand years ago or today, that’s how stock is made if it’s real stock. It’s what stock is. Otherwise, it’s broth.

          And to say that ‘well, my grandma gave us stock made from boiled bones, therefore chemically treated “meat trimmings” is just fine to eat because the USDA says so’ is a ridiculous way to justify such a thing. The dots don’t connect. If you want to eat things that shouldn’t actually even be called food, go ahead, but the rest of us will continue to object. I’m glad that I don’t eat ground beef that isn’t either organic from reputable producers or ground right in front of me.

          • Stephen OgleyMarch 10, 2012 at 2:57 am

            No, it’s ridiculous to appoint the USDA to regulate food and then cry out in alarm because you don’t like the sound of it. Scientists have shown that ammonium hydroxide is safe not just in pink slime but in many other foods. What evidence have you got that it isn’t?

            I agree that meat products that contain pink slime are not organic but this discussion is not about organic products it’s about the preparation of leftover meat. Which battle are you fighting, organic food or the preparation of leftover meat?

  2. David WiseleyMarch 9, 2012 at 6:35 pmReply

    First of all they are not using this to make “stock”. They put a pound of it in every five pounds of hamburger. If it is such good nutritious stuff why don’t you slice of a quarter pound of it and fry it up in place of hamburger. Bet you couldn’t stand to eat it. Also the USDA approval by Joann Smith was highly suspect. She should not have been allowed to deal with something where she had a “conflict of interests”.

    • Stephen OgleyMarch 10, 2012 at 2:43 amReply

      The point is that we’ve been consuming leftover meat for centuries. The meat industry is simply preparing it for consumption in another way. No, I wouldn’t like to eat 100% pink slime, neither would I like to consume 100% granny’s stock unless it was mixed with other ingredients. Neither would I like to eat 100% pure olive oil but olive oil is still a healthy ingredient in some foods. What’s your point in suggesting that I do that?

      • kevin frederickMarch 12, 2012 at 10:19 pmReply

        Dude, you are totally in need of an head examination, you wouldn’t eat your grandmas stock which is broth nothing more( with mire poix, look it up if you don’t know what that is, which you probably won’t ). Compared to an item made by some crazy process. Olive oil is also a great nutritional food you can,t even compare the three. Wake up and make some sense.Three giant fast food chains have decided not to use it anymore why do you think that is???? They see the writing on the wall and you should as well.

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