‘Pink slime’ in Grand Forks area schools, not in storesThe controversial meat substance is largely out of grocery stores. One meat manager even boasted "We're 100 percent clear of the slime." But the substance may still be served in area schools, which are supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The department plans to discontinue the practice, though school officials say they don't see what the big deal is.
By: Christopher Bjorke, Grand Forks Herald
From a marketing perspective, something popularly known as “pink slime” will probably be a flop.
That could be why Grand Forks-area grocers have stopped selling ground beef containing filler made from processed meat scraps and treated with ammonia hydroxide.
Local schools have not taken the beef with substance out of their meals, in part because they do not have control over whether they get it from federal commodity suppliers.
“It’s finely textured beef if you’re talking to meat packers,” said Scott Van Camp, meat supervisor for Hugo’s grocery stores. But it is probably called pink slime by customers who heard about the substance through news reports and wondered about its nutritional qualities or just found it unappetizing.
The filler is made from fatty meat trimmings from which the meat is separated from the fat and treated with “a puff of ammonia to eliminate bacteria safely” according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture advisory to schools. The low-fat product is usually mixed with higher-fat ground beef to reduce its fat content.
Grand Forks Public Schools Child Nutrition Director Julie Tunseth said she has not received any questions from parents on the district’s use of meat with substance, and she agrees with the USDA that there is no reason to worry about the eating it.
“We wouldn’t serve anything we wouldn’t eat ourselves or wouldn’t want to eat,” Tunseth said.
She said ammonia is widely used to prevent food-borne illnesses and should not worry consumers. “I think there’s some confusion because of the media.”
At Hugo’s, Van Camp said, “Monday was the last delivery on some pre-packaged products that contain that additive. If we’d had any knowledge of that being in there, it wouldn’t have been on the shelves in the first place.”
Van Camp said Hugo’s grinds and packages its own beef at its stores from whole-muscle meat, though it also sells beef packed elsewhere, including what it removed from its shelves. He recalled his reaction to news reports of “pink slime.”
“It made me very happy that we’re still grinding our own beef,” Van Camp said. “It’s very troubling to me that the meat industry isn’t more open about their practices.”
Wholesaler US Foods in Grand Forks forwarded questions to its corporate headquarters in Illinois, which did not respond.
Super One Foods also grinds and packages its own beef and did not carry meat with the additive, said meat manager Jamie Gudajtes.
“We’re 100 percent clear of the slime,” he said.
Schools in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are still receiving and serving ground beef with the substance that the USDA says is as safe as any other beef but will stop sending to schools through its commodity program in the fall.
“I think a lot of this has been taken out of proportion,” said Karen Pickett, food service director for the East Grand Forks Public School District. The beef she purchases from vendors does not contain the substance. Meat the district receives through USDA commodity program could contain it, but there are no labeling requirements for vendors.
UND has opted for less processed meat not containing such additives and has used hormone- and antibiotic-free Angus beef for about three years, said Orlynn Rosaasen, director of dining services at UND.
“There’s none of that in there. It’s an all-natural product,” he said. “A lot of times people think food service means they’re using the cheapest product.”
Reach Bjorke at (701) 780-1117; (800) 477-6572, ext. 117; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.