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Mar 2012

Slimed!


So there you are, happy that you have switched your dog from a inferior quality kibble diet to a home cooked diet you can feel confident in, and suddenly you begin to hear about “pink slime”.

Although it has been around for several years (Food Revolution’s Jamie Oliver has an interesting 2011 video about in on YouTube), pink slime has only recently shown up in the news and people are in an uproar about it.

If you don’t know, pink slime, also known as lean finely textured beef, is a low-grade beef based additive that is added to ground beef and processed meats (think lunch meat) as a cheap filler. It consists of finely ground beef scraps, mostly connective tissue, which have been mechanically separated. The areas where these scraps come from are mostly contaminated portions of the cow, such as near the hide where it could have been exposed to manure, and vaccination points. These scraps are most often sold to pet food manufacturing plants as they are not considered suitable for human consumption. However, thanks to human creativity and the desire to make more money, companies have found a way to fix that.

In order to kill the dangerous levels of e.coli and salmonella often found in these scraps, they treat the product with ammonium hydroxide gas. Sounds innocent enough until you read the information contained on its Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). “DANGER! Corrosive. Causes eye and skin burns. Causes digestive and respiratory tract burns. Toxic. Harmful if swallowed.”

That’s right… “Harmful if swallowed.” They are taking low-grade beef parts (ironically considered just fine for dog food), removing dangerous bacteria with a toxic substance and then adding it to our ground beef. Scared yet? Just wait, it gets better…

The USDA has labeled pink slime as safe, even though Canada and the United Kingdom have banned it. Suppliers can add up to 15% of pink slime to your ground beef without making any indication on the label. Efforts to make the manufacturer of pink slime label products containing it have met with futility. They state that the products are already labeled appropriately as “beef”, because that is what pink slime is. They of course fail to mention that while pink slime does come from a cow, it is also far less nutritional and even undigestible. Chemist See Arr Oh, a blogger for Scientific American, states, “There’s less overall ‘functional’ protein than that found in other meat products. An analysis at Iowa State University found two and a half times more insoluble protein (77% vs. 30%) relative to soluble proteins in ordinary ground chuck.”

So, how can you protect your dog from being “slimed”? Fortunately, public outcry has forced the main manufacturer of pink slime, Beef Products Inc., to close three of it four factories because supermarkets are backing away from adding it to their ground beef. Unfortunately, these closures will not make pink slime vanish and, as a concerned pet parent, there are ways to making sure your dog is eating pure beef. Below are just a few of my suggestions:

Buy larger, inexpensive cuts of beef.


Chuck roasts, round steak and flank steak are usually inexpensive and supermarkets often run them on sale. My local grocer will offer them at buy one, get one free, at least once a month. Toss them into a crock pot with a little water and some garlic on your way to work.

Buy USDA Organic ground beef.


While expensive, ground beef labeled as organic is comprised solely of meat and is free from pink slime.

Buy ground bison.


Still more expensive than ground beef, but swiftly becoming more popular and therefore less expensive, ground bison is an excellent choice. It also contains less fat than regular beef.

Ask your supermarket to grind your beef while you wait.


While time consuming, it is refreshing to watch your beef being ground right there and know that it is 100% pure.

Ask your supermarket if they use pink slime.


While there is a chance that someone won’t tell you the truth, sometimes they might actually surprise you.

It is easy to get discouraged when you go to all the effort to feed your dog a healthy, balanced home cooked diet and then find out that the products you thought were safe for him aren’t even safe for you. But take heart in the fact that even if your dog has been “slimed” you can take the steps necessary to prevent it from happening again and, even with the slime, your dog was still receiving a far better diet than he would have if you were still feeding kibble… now that’s scary!

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