School lunch programs have been in the spotlight recently. Just last week, the Blaze posted two stories about a North Carolina school where the food police were aggressively monitoring lunches that parents give to their children. Earlier this year, First Lady Michelle Obama lead a very public campaign to announce that healthier foods would be coming to school cafeterias and military mess halls.
Today, many parents will be questioning the wisdom of a government-controlled school lunch program. Why? Because the Feds have announced that the USDA is buying seven million pounds of something that is affectionately known as "pink slime."
The seven million pounds of this frankenmeat product purchased by the USDA is not a new addition to the lunch programs in schools, just a substantial increase. The New York Times reported that in 2009 the U.S. government purchased 5.5 million pounds of the stuff.
Pink slime is a mixture of leftover trimmings, sinew, and other beef parts culled from a cow once the expensive and more recognizable cuts of meat have been harvested and sent to a butcher. The collection of leftovers is spun in a centrifuge to remove excess fat, washed in a disinfecting solution and then minced for use in various applications.
Pink slime is allowed to make up as much as 15% of the ground beef you might be purchasing at from your local grocery store. And according to some industry experts, the concoction may be in as much as 70% of the ground beef found in America. Gerald Zirnstein, the scientist who first coined the phrase "pink slime" when he worked at the USDA, told ABC news that calling any package that contains it "fresh ground beef" constitutes " economic fraud:"
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is not a fan of this stuff. He recently waged a very public campaign against pink slime and managed to convince McDonald's to stop using it in their hamburgers.
Perhaps the decision from Mickey D's was inspired by this segment on Oliver's TV show:
Joining McDonald's in pledging to stop using pink slime is Burger King and Taco Bell.
The cost savings realized by adding the ammonia treated mixture of trimmings to real ground beef amounts to about 3 cents a pound. And there have been reports from schools and prisons where these burgers are served claiming that the meat smells and tastes of ammonia. And yet the USDA is increasing the amount of pink slime purchased for the national school lunch programs.
If the cost savings are minimal and the fast food industry is removing pink slime from its considerable food distribution network, will the government respond in kind?