Pink slime is back on the menu

Schools in seven states couldn't stay away from the beef additive

Published September 10, 2013 7:40PM (EDT)

Here's another reason why it's nice to be a grownup. After dutifully freaking out about pink slime -- sorry, lean finely textured beef -- schools in seven states have changed their minds. Citing tight budgets, they're back to serving the ammonia-treated meat product in cafeterias.

This time last year, only Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota were feeding their schoolchildren pink slime-tainted beef. But in the past week, according to government data obtained by POLITICO, schools in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas resumed placing orders for it with the USDA.

Officially, it's safe. But in case you need a refresher on why everyone was so upset about it in the first place, POLITICO provides a succinct, yet evocative, primer:

Considered by the beef industry to be an impressive innovation, lean finely textured beef is made from the remnant scraps of cattle carcasses that were once deemed too fatty to go into human food. The scraps are heated and centrifuged to reclaim bits of muscle and then the product is treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli before being mixed into ground beef. Currently, USDA allows these beef products to contain up to 15 percent lean finely textured beef without labeling requirements, but last year the department said it would allow voluntary labeling.

Using pink slime reduces the price of ground beef by about 3 percent, which is winning out over the "ew" factor. And anyway, “mostly it’s just that parents thought it was gross," said Margo Wootan, from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Kids, on the other hand, will eat anything.

By Lindsay Abrams

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