Lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) doesn't draw much attention, but call it "pink slime" and suddenly consumers are making "ick" sounds all over the place. The result is that major grocery chains have announced decisions to no longer include LFTB in their ground beef.
Delhaize, Safeway and Supervalu have all said the chains they operate will no longer purchase ground beef with LFTB even though the USDA maintains it is safe for human consumption. Walmart has said that it will offer consumers the option of purchasing ground beef with or without LFTB.
For those not familiar, LFTB is made from beef trimmings spun through a centrifuge and then treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria. According to a Food Safety News opinion piece by microbiologist and author Phyllis Entis, "Ammonium hydroxide has been used as an antimicrobial agent in meat for more than 40 years."
A press release from the American Meat Institute states: "LFTB is nutritionally equivalent to lean ground beef. It is important to recognize that, while some reports have called LFTB an additive or a filler, these terms are absolutely inaccurate."
Critics, most notably celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, have argued LFTB is only fit for pet food and not human consumption. A campaign by Mr. Oliver led McDonald's to stop using LFTB last summer.
Are grocers making the right or wrong decision by discontinuing the sale of meat with lean, finely textured beef?