Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Only three states, all big in cattle, choose to keep 'lean, finely textured beef' in school lunches

When given the choice by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the nation's schools have overwhelmingly chosen to buy slightly more expensive beef that is free of "pink slime" than to offer beef that contains the product, formally known as "lean, finely textured beef." The Associated Press reports that only the major beef-packing states of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota chose to keep buying the beef that is derived from beef-fat trimmings that are treated with ammonia hydroxide to remove pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli. Every other state has agreed to pay 3 percent more for beef served in schools. (The company that makes beef containing the product, Beef Products Inc., is based in South Dakota and has had, until recently, facilities in Iowa. The company still operates in Nebraska.)

According to Nirvi Shah of Education Week, the product "can be more susceptible to pathogens than regular cuts of meat because it often comes from the outermost part of cows — where it's more likely to be in contact with fecal matter on a cow's hide. A 2009 New York Times story reported that from 2005-2009 ground beef with lean, finely textured beef was far more likely to have salmonella than ground beef made without it." The USDA maintains that lean, finely textured beef is safe. It has been under fire most recently when food blogger Bettina Siegel called for its removal from school meals, generating a petition that yielded thousands of signatures. Soon after, the USDA gave schools the choice. Shah adds that this move by the states is in line with an earlier poll in which "Americans said they want better nutrition standards for the food and drinks sold in schools." (Read more)

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