I’m sure most of you have seen the recent exposeʹ ABC aired on the addition of “Pink slime” to ground beef we purchase in the grocery store. What exactly is pink slime? For the sake of this blog I’m going to refer to Pink Slime as LFTB (Lean Finely Textured Beef).
LFTB is a method of taking high fat beef trimmings and separating the actual protein from the fat. This method involves the heating of beef trimmings and placing them in a centrifuge. Once the centrifuge is engaged the lean protein that is present in the trimmings is separated from the fat. The end result is LFTB of which is about 90% lean. Nutritionally LFTB is no different from common ground beef found in the store. There is however a texture difference. This is where the “Finely Textured” portion of the term “LFTB” comes from. Portions of LFTB are incorporated into some lean ground beef you may find in the store and beef patties in some foodservice venues as a binder to hold the patties together.
The LFTB product is then sent through a pathogen intervention step. During this step LFTB is treated with ammonium hydroxide gas, where the product is sprayed with a puff of gas which alters the pH killing any harmful pathogens that may be present. It’s important to know that ammonium hydroxide gas is a natural occurring gas found just about everywhere, from the soil in the ground to our very own body. The human body produces ammonia to regulate the pH of the body. This allows the body to breakdown proteins into the amino acids that we need nutritionally. This link contains more information about the uses of ammonium hydroxide in food production along with links to the FDA and USDA’s views on the use ammonia in food.
This link also shows how naturally occurring ammonium hydroxide is in many of the foods we regularly consume.
So what is Mechanically Separated Meat?
Mechanically separated meat is found predominately in the poultry industry and referred to as MSC (mechanically separated chicken). This product is derived in a very different way than LFTB. MSC is a batter or paste like meat product that is produced by forcing bones with attached edible meat under high pressure through a sieve, which is a device designed to separate bone from edible meat tissue. MSC is a process that has been around since the 60’s. Today all products containing MSC MUST be declared on the product label.There are still many misconceptions out there about MSC. One of the most common is that MSC is what chicken nuggets are made of. This is false, in fact MSC shows up most often in hotdogs. Other processed meats such as bologna also may contain MSC. But, like I said earlier, it will be on the label.
Read more about the USDA definitions of MSC
So what’s the difference between LFTB and MSC?
The biggest difference between LFTB and MSC is the process. While MSC is mechanically removing edible tissue that was left on the bone during fabrication, LFTB has no bone involved in its process. With a combination of centrifugal force and heat LFTB is produced from all edible products. The LFTB process allows processors to utilize all lean protein that is provided by that particular animal.
Are LFTB and MSC safe for consumption?
The answer is yes on both counts. Either process is safe however; the biggest difference is that MSC has bone and marrow incorporated in the final product because of the process it is derived from. The end product derived from producing LFTB is 90% pure beef and appx 10% edible fat. This fat and beef is no different than what is in a steak, it’s just in a finely textured form.
Why do we produce such products?
With the growing population of the United States and the world, sustainability is the key to success and survival. Recently we have already seen repercussions of the removal of LFTB from the industry. Just this week 650 people were laid off from BPI (Beef Products Inc) an industry leading producer of LFTB. According to Brownfield Ag News the industry would need an additional 1.5 million head of cattle to meet the beef demand if LFTB was taken off the market.
If we are going to raise animals to feed the world shouldn’t we take full advantage of the protein that animal provides?
The following you-tube link is a good insight from the American Meat Institute on LFTB
For more info on LFTB and MSC check out these sites.