What is Pink Slime (Beef) & How to Avoid It?

(Last Updated On: February 4, 2013)

Two summers ago I was watching the season premiere of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. One of the points in this episode was to learn where your food comes from. This led him to the topic of pink slime. What is pink slime (some people call it red slime)? Whenever a cow is butchered there are pieces that are cut off that aren’t considered for human consumption. There is a greater risk for E. coli and other nasty stuff in those parts of the cow. It use to be mainly just for pet food. A dog’s stomach can handle the kind of stuff ours can’t. However now this pink slime is ending up in our foods. Using a centrifuge they can separate the fat from the meat. Once they salvage this meat, there still is the concern of potential illness in humans. So to make sure that won’t be a problem, they pull out a chemical – ammonia. Yes, the meat industry actually uses ammonia to kill anything that might be in the meat and the United States Department of Agriculture is perfect ok with this. In fact, they are so ok with it that no one has to list on their labels that ammonia was ever used. The meat industry convinced the USDA, that the ammonia is just a “processing agent”. There is some limits put on pink slime. You can’t use more than 15% of it in ground beef. So it’s basically just used as a filler, but the filler saves the meat industry some serious dough. It has put a lot of dough in the pockets of Beef Products Inc, the creators of pink slime. They call the product “Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT)” or “Finely Textured Beef (FTB)”.

Ammonia is something that is found naturally in the environment. We have it our bodies. What I am concerned about is putting more ammonia into your body than you can handle. Is pink slime doing this? That I don’t know. I haven’t read any research that proves this. But it’s risk I do not want to take and it’s a risk that I can avoid. I believe the way we have treated and processed food in this country has lead to a lot of problems. People having problems with things like gluten and other allergies seem to be a more recent trend. People I have talked to in my generation and my parent’s don’t remember these things being such a problem.

Let’s go back to why they use ammonia in the first place – to kill any E. coli bacteria. This is one of those fixing the problem we caused situations. E. coli is as natural as ammonia. We have it in our bodies right now. It became a problem when people started feeding corn to cows. This caused a mutation to occur with the E. coli bacteria in the cow, which lead to a strain that is harmful to us. Biologists from the USDA and Cornell University have known about this since 1998. You can learn more about this topic from food documentaries like Food Inc. .

How Can You Avoid Pink Slime?
So how do you avoid this kind of beef? Good news is that McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell have all stopped using pink slime (which means they were using it in the first place). But that doesn’t mean all fast food places stopped using it. You may also encounter it at the grocery store. You should never ever buy ground beef labeled as hamburger. That is almost a guarantee that you will be getting some grounded up pink slime in there. Recently, I have read reports about the USDA purchasing 7 million pounds of pink slime for school lunches.

How Can You Tell if You are Getting Pink Slime?
According to an ABC news report, 70% of super market beef contains pink slime. Doesn’t that make you sick. You really can’t tell when you are getting it, but you can tell when you are not getting it. Companies aren’t required to say they used pink slime in a product. So the only way to read that something 100% from whatever part of the cow (100% ground chuck or ground sirloin for example). If it does not have this 100% label or you are still having doubts, then only way to know for sure that you are pink slime free is to have a butcher grind the meat right in front of you. There are places they will do this. Next time you are at your local grocery store, grab a roast (such as a boneless chuck eye roast) and ask someone behind the butcher counter if they can grind it for you. Any grocery store interested in giving good customer service should do this for you.

What Groceries Do Not Use Pink Slime?
ABC News did a follow-up report, asking some grocery stores if they use pink slime. According to that report, these stores claimed they do not use pink slime:

1) Publix
2) Costco
3) HEB
4) Whole Foods
5) Kroger

Now just because these stores don’t add it to their fresh ground beef, it doesn’t mean you won’t find it as a filler in some form in the frozen products that contain beef. There is no way to tell on the packaging if the product contains pink slime or not. I personally do not buy nor do I recommend buying any type of frozen beef product.

For more information on pink slime in frozen beef, check out my new post on the topic.

Safeway does not make the list above as they confirm the use of ” Lean Finely Textured Ground Beef”. They think say if the government says it safe, then it’s safe for Safeway. But they did say they are reviewing the manner, so we will see. **UPDATE** As of 3/21/2012, Safeway has decided to remove pink slime from their freshly ground beef.

Update from 1/29/2013: ABC Being Sued by Beef Products Inc (BPI)
Beef Products Inc has filed a lawsuit against ABC for defamation in their use of the term pink slime. BPI has lost millions of dollars in revenue ever since many restaurants and groceries stop using their product. Jamie Oliver is also being sued in this case, which as of 1/29/2013 was headed to federal court in Omaha.

Does Organic Ground Beef Contain Pink Slime?
If the ground beef is labeled certified USDA organic, than it cannot contain any fillers, so it will not have pink slime in it.

Is Pink Slime Found in Ground Turkey, Pork, or Chicken?
Pink slime is a beef product that is only used in other beef products. They don’t put it in ground turkey, chicken, or pork.

Grind Beef Yourself

Want to know for sure you aren’t getting pink slime – grind the meat yourself. You can get a hand powered meat grinder or if you have a KitchenAid Stand Mixer you can buy an meat grinder attachment.

It’s important to know what is really in your food. Don’t take it for granted. And when in doubt, grind it yourself or with the help of your neighborhood butcher. I especially would avoid ground poultry that comes already packaged, particularly in light of a big recall last year. Find a store that grounds it’s own poultry in their store daily.

Related Topics
For more on pink slime, check out the food documentary – Food Inc.

Want to learn more about ground beef? Check out my post explaining the different types of ground beef (ground round, ground chuck, ground sirloin, etc.)

Should You Be Concerned About Arsenic in Apple Juice? A post inspired by an episode of Dr. Oz questioning the levels of arsenic in apple juice supplies.

Coke Finds Fungicide in Orange Juice; U.S. Halts Imports. Early this year fungicides were discovered in orange juice imported from Brazil. Much of America’s orange juice supply contains juice from other countries (except for these brands).

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84 Comment

  1. Is there a way to get store or producers to tell us what products contain ammoniated meat? Is there a higher incidence of pink slime in say frozan food?

  2. JohnW says:


    So everyone knows, Ammonia and/or ammonium hydroxide does not cause cancer. Atsdr (CDC), EPA, and OSHA agree that it is not carcinogenic.

    Atsdr’s “Public Health Statement”, in fact, states “Ammonia is essential for mammals and is necessary for making DNA, RNA, and proteins. It also plays a part in maintaining acid-base balance in tissues of mammals.”

    The same document states “Ammonia is an essential mammalian metabolite for DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis and is necessary for maintaining acid-base balance. Ammonia is produced and used endogenously in all mammalian species. It has been estimated that up to 17 grams of ammonia are produced in humans daily. Of these 17 grams, approximately 4 grams are produced in the gut by intestinal bacteria, where it enters the portal circulation and is metabolized rapidly by the liver to urea. Ammonia is excreted primarily as urea and urinary ammonium compounds through the kidneys. Levels of ammonia in the blood from healthy humans range from 0.7 to 2 mg/L.”

    Ammonia is naturally in the cells of the meats we eat already. It is also in all of our muscle cells. Our bodies make it, the bacteria in our bodies make it.


    Patrick, you are writing about 28% solution of ammonium hydroxide. We are talking about parts per million (ppm) levels because that is all that will be left after the cooking process . If we were talking about drinking clean fresh water, I would be talking about drinking a few glasses per day and you would be talking about death from water intoxication.

  3. JohnW says:

    From the document I linked to in my last post, humans ingest about 18 milligrams per day (mg/day) from ammonium salts ingestion.

    Hmmm. My last post referenced 17,000 mg/day of ammonia being created naturally by the human body.

    Given that minimal amounts of NH3 will survive the cooking process of ground meat, we really are talking about negligible amounts here.

    I really would rather have a small amount of NH3 sprayed on my ground beef (that I cook away) than have a colony of salmonella make many people sick, or even dead. Ammonia already is generated in all of our bodies in exponentially greater quantities than the man induced parts of the food source give.

    This entire Nh4Oh/Nh3 in the ground meat thing is a non-issue.

  4. Oregonhammer says:

    JohnW, Thank you for your posts. I’m a meatcutter and have had a few customers, occasionally, complain about “big supermarket chains that try to sell tainted or chemically sprayed or injected beef to unsuspecting customers,” ” regrinding hamburger to make it bloom out”, and my favorite, ” adding old steaks and roasts to hamburger, that’s why it’s dark in the center.” (Here’s a secret folks, it’s called oxygenation, lol.) It doesn’t matter if you point out the TRUE facts, people know what they know and you can’t tell them anything different.
    To all of you who want to become vegetarians, you’ll find that eating alot of veggies, especially green veggies will put a higher level of cyanide in your system. Believe it.
    Melmike, how long do you think it will take for the calf to be ready for slaughter? Have fun waiting.
    And Admin, it’s true that the filler IS making money for BPI, BUT it is ALSO saving some serious dough for consumers.
    As for making sure you’re not getting this product, meatcutters, at the end of the day, will grind their beef trim from all of the cutting they’ve done that day. Just ask your butcher for any market trim, or grab a nice chuck roast or crossrib roast, for about a 10 to 15 percent hamburger or a rump or top round roast for leaner hamburger. Have a great day all. Peace.

  5. […] Another food blog I read suggested picking up a roast such as a boneless chuck eye roast and ask someone behind the butcher counter to grind it for you. The food blogger says if they want to keep your business they will and you’ll know it’s 100 percent beef without fillers. […]

  6. Myra says:

    This is one reason why I want to start raising my own beef. I already raise all of my family’s poultry and eggs, also I have dairy goats and own a share in a cow. I simply don’t trust any government agency to regulate my food, what they may consider fine and safe may be something I simply don’t want myself or my children consuming. Plus the fact that if there were to be some sort of national disaster, a severe earthquake or even a terrorist attack, I don’t want to have to rely on what meager supplies the grocery store will have to offer.

  7. Colette says:

    We the public need to make our voices heard, boycut the beef industry and ask the beef growers to request the USDA to label this product exactly like it is, PINK SLIME , right on the package. We should at least know what we are paying for. I agree to raise your own beef is the best thing but not everyone is capable of doing this for many reasons, economics, space, time, health restrictions, etc. Everything is about greed and money and our health is always at stake in every circumstances. Don’t let our government decide everything about our lives, lets speak out, we want to have more controls of our own lives. If the general public makes enough noise, maybe they will be heard.

  8. terry says:

    And you wonder why we have so much effing cancer. Yuck.

  9. JohnW says:

    Hi Myra,

    Raising cattle is a great thing! The freshest cuts of meat will be awesome for you.
    Poultry feces and cow/cattle feces are particularly high in ammonia. Farms tend to have ammonia levels (air and soil) in the air and soil comparable with that of an industrial yard that handles ammonia. I encourage you to read the document I linked to in a previous post.

    Further, the digestion of the protein from the cow will naturally introduce ammonia into your body. The human body generates ammonia every day as it breaks down protein.

    Have fun with the cows. It is a good safety net to have your own food source. I wish I could dothe same but I cannot.

  10. Mary Harris says:

    Pink slime in schools legislation

  11. adrianne says:

    Thanks for this. Never thought about just having the butcher grind it for me!

    Mary Harris – thanks for sharing.

  12. […] is a lot of debate raging about whether the ammonia is safe or not (check out the comments on my What is Pink Slime & How to Avoid It page or this 2009 NY Times […]

  13. Susan says:

    The USDA should require that so-called pink slime be considered an additive to meat and therefore require labeling as such.

    Have others noticed that the price of ground beef (relative to solid cuts) has actually gone up significantly in the past 3-5 years? Given the addition of up to 15% pink slime and the price increase, somebody is making a lot of money. I wonder if that somebody has friends at USDA.

  14. Beverly says:

    Wasn’t ammonia added to cigarettes to make them more addictive?

  15. 12 union costco worker says:

    I worked the meat department for a total of 3 years on different occasions, and the meat is ground and packed for everyone to see. But they make thier own fine grind, which is distributed to all their warehouses?

  16. […] about $4.50/pound which is the cheapest I’ve seen. Their conventional ground beef is supposed to be slime-free. So, we may revert to that. The jury’s still out. But, overall, Costco does seem like an easy […]

  17. […] What is Pink Slime and How to Avoid It :: Eat Like No One Else […]

  18. […] slime issue continues to rage on. In case you have been outside of the loop, check out my post on What Pink Slime Is. The public’s outcry against the beef filler, called lean finely textured beef has lead […]

  19. […] out these other pink slime related posts: What is Pink Slime (Beef) & How to Avoid It? McDonald’s, Burger King, & Taco Bell No Longer Using Pink Slime USDA Orders Pink Slime […]

  20. Please send this page to me. We are doing “Clean and Unclean Foods” in our classes at our ministry and we are talking about health hazards in the foods we eat.
    Go to google search engine to reach my website.

  21. NeverBuyGroundNeverHave says:

    I noticed that WalMart is suspiciously left out of the notations of what stores may or may not use this trash. You must be scared of WalMart, aren’t you?

  22. admin says:

    I never heard any reports from Walmart. I don’t buy groceries there, so I really don’t pay much attention to them. But I would expect they have used pink slime before. Can’t confirm either way officially.

  23. […] Have you heard about ‘pink slime’? The nasty stuff that might be in the ground beef you’re buying? I knew nothing about this until recently and yeah, I was disgusted. Find out what you probably didn’t even know you were eating in Eat Like No One Else‘s article, What Is Pink Slime (Beef) & How To Avoid It? […]

  24. Caleb says:

    i don’t think that pink slime should be in grocery stores or schools.

  25. Marie says:

    This is scary. I learned about this “Pink Slime” about 6 months ago; just from the photo of it upset my stomach, I really felt sick. I have not have beef since I saw the actual pictures of pink slime. I live cheeseburgers. Surprisingly I have lose a pound. I was wondering about the kosher beef?

  26. JT says:

    While ‘pink slime’ as such is not used in ground meats other than beef, they do add something similar to ground poultry products. It’s commonly called ‘mechanically separated chicken’ (or turkey). It’s most commonly used in pre-formed patties and sausages. With the patties, it’s pretty easy to see the stuff oozing out as they cook. Not a pretty thought, but that’s the meat industry for you.

    Why do they use stuff like this? It’s pretty simple. With honest to goodness ground meat with nothing added, a significant part of the volume is air. Back in the 1970’s or so, they started grinding ice with the meat so the empty space would fill with water and increase the net weight. Consumers got wise to that when they noticed that a pound of raw burger cooked down to 9-10 ounces. Pink slime fills in the air spaces and doesn’t cook out, plus it eliminates a waste product that they would otherwise have to pay someone to haul away.

    Yuck… no thanks!

  27. patrick lamb says:

    Want to know where ink slime went? Check Marie Collanders.

  28. […] biggest moment so far in the history of my blog was when ABC News began reporting about pink slime or lean finely textured beef (LFTB). I first wrote about it when Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution show was airing on ABC. The two […]

  29. Tammy says:

    amazing how our government allows this practice, how they allow the people of the untied state to eat this crap we mean so little to them we are the cow the pig the cattle here wake up America make a stand an protect our children at least we deserve better then this an a lot more.

  30. […] ($LC_F) has seen a tremendous upsurge in prices.  Part of that has been scare.  Remember the pink slime scare over a year ago?  Because of it, beef prices have to go up because not using pink slime […]

  31. Susan says:

    Thanks for the simple solution have it ground for you!

  32. Eric Samuelson says:

    Simple and it works. Thanks for stopping by!

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