My ears were bleeding this afternoon when I listened to my local talk radio hosts discussing the “pink slime” story that has hit the mainstream media. Pink slime, as you may have learned, is lean finely-textured beef (LFTB), or boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT) that is often added to ground beef.

What caused my angst was the blatant misinformation on the radio such as: “they are sweeping up pieces that have fallen on the floor such as hooves and hides and bones!” and “this is just a blatant conspiracy between USDA and the NCBA and you just need to buy your beef from you local farmer” (who needs meat inspection, anyway?).

What irked me about my local radio hosts (and their callers) were the conspiracy theories that painted the entire beef industry as participating in some sort of subterfuge. Do they really think the cow-calf producer in Montana has anything to do with how beef from his cattle eventually is processed at the packing plant? But now they, too, have been given a black eye.

Whether you believe it is right or wrong that most of the population didn’t know this beef product was being added to ground beef, you should have the facts about what it is and what it isn’t.

The National Meat Institute has wasted no time putting out a statement refuting these claims and providing a fact sheet on what exactly LFTB is, how it’s made, its safety, what it’s used for and in what other types of food it is routinely used (see below).  

For example: LFTB is a safe, high quality protein product, which is very low in fat, and has a proven track record of use in USDA ground beef purchases and a wide variety of commercial beef items. Of the ground beef purchased by USDA in 2011, LFTB comprised approximately 6.5% of the total volume.

The American Meat Institute, likewise, is communicating to the masses. In its press release (below NMA’s), it says, "Some recent media reports created a troubling and inaccurate picture, particularly in their use of the colloquial term 'pink slime.'  The fact is, BLBT is beef. The beef trimmings that are used to make BLBT are absolutely edible."

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association says that it supports both of these organizations' statements.

So get the facts, calm the hysteria and let’s get back to business.

Read a commentary by Drovers/Cattlenetwork editor Greg Henderson here.

National Meat Association’s press release:

BPI'S beef is beef

March 8, 2012, OAKLAND, CA -- ABC World News ran a story yesterday focused on the claims of two disgruntled scientists formerly with USDA. These men deride Lean Finely-Textured Beef (LFTB) as nothing but “pink slime.” However, there’s nothing that is scientific or factual about their claims.
LFTB is produced using a technology developed and used by Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) to ensure improved safety of beef and beef trimmings. In fact, the company has been recognized by the USDA, consumer safety groups, and food protection organizations for its innovations in food safety, and its lean beef products have undergone rigorous and comprehensive testing.

The raw material that the company uses is not scraps destined for pet food. It is Federally-inspected, high-quality beef trim. BPI uses an innovative process to lower the fat content of these trimmings. This lean beef is then used in sausage, ground beef and many other foods. The food safety component of the process is the inclusion of the naturally occurring compound ammonium hydroxide, which has an antimicrobial effect. This same compound is used in making puddings, cheeses and processed foods. With today’s supply of lean meat at historical lows, BPI is adding to the industry’s global sustainability.

“I have been through BPI’s plants, seen the process and the product, and BPI is producing a high-quality beef product,” NMA CEO Barry Carpenter said. “It is a misrepresentation to call it anything else.”

National Meat Association is a non-profit trade association. Since 1946, NMA has represented meat packers and processors, equipment manufacturers and food suppliers who provide services to the meat industry. The association has members throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Australia and Mexico.

Fact Sheet on LFTB here

American Meat Institute’s press release:

Boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT) is a safe and wholesome beef product made by separating lean beef from fat

Statement by American Meat President J. Patrick Boyle

March 8, 2012, WASHINGTON, D.C. -- “Boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT) is a safe, wholesome and nutritious form of beef that is made by separating lean beef from fat. To make the product, beef companies use beef trimmings, the small cuts of beef that remain when larger cuts are trimmed down. These trimmings are USDA inspected, wholesome cuts of beef that contain both fat and lean and are nearly impossible to separate using a knife. When these trimmings are processed, the process separates the fat away and the end result is nutritious, lean beef.  It’s a process similar to separating cream from milk.

One process uses food grade ammonium hydroxide gas, something commonly used in the production of many foods, to destroy bacteria. Whatever process is used, it is all done under the watchful eye of USDA inspectors and according to strict federal rules. Lean finely textured beef is blended into foods like ground beef. Producing BLBT ensures that lean, nutritious, safe beef is not wasted in a world where red meat protein supplies are decreasing while global demand is increasing as population and income increases.

Some recent media reports created a troubling and inaccurate picture, particularly in their use of the colloquial term 'pink slime.'  The fact is, BLBT is beef. The beef trimmings that are used to make BLBT are absolutely edible. In fact, no process can somehow make an inedible meat edible; it’s impossible. In reality, the BLBT production process simply removes fat and makes the remaining beef more lean and suited to a variety of beef products that satisfy consumers’ desire for leaner foods.

In fact, BLBT is a sustainable product because it recovers lean meat that would otherwise be wasted. The beef industry is proud to efficiently produce as much lean meat as possible from the cattle we raise.  It’s the right thing to do and it ensures that our products remain as affordable as we can make them while helping to feed America and the world.”

Consumers with questions are encouraged to visit

For information on the use of ammonium hydroxide in other foods, click here