Feb
01
2010

hamburger: what is it really made from?
hamburger: what is it really made from?Courtesy PixelAndInk
No fries. I’m watching my diet.

Yeah, I said ammonia burger. Haven’t you heard that your favorite fast food beef gut –bomb was most likely treated with ammonia? It’s not like the teenage fry cook at the burger joint reaches under the counter and grabs the bottle of floor cleaner to splash on a sizzling grill. However, there is still extra ammonia used to treat a ‘portion’ of your burger. Just a little extra ammonia injected during a specially patented process that makes up a percentage of the meat to form a patty. That ‘portion’ is where I think the real story lies.

Over the last few months, the news wires have been releasing stories about this specially patented process, including leading breaks by the New York Times. The stories center on the company, Beef Products Inc. (BPI) located in South Dakota. BPI developed the procedure of treating beef trimmings with ammonia to reduce the presence of harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. Coli. Some of their main customers include McDonald’s, Burger King, and local food conglomerate Cargill. BPI had performed so well during USDA inspections that by 2007 they were exempted from testing. Its customers have stood firmly by its side. Last summer, things changed when school outbreaks of salmonella resulted in a banning of BPI meat products in some states. The pressure is on the U.S. Department of Agriculture now to investigate any issues.

No one wants to eat meat products contaminated with E. Coli or salmonella. But the whole idea of eating something treated with ammonia just doesn’t sound safe. Was it too many years of Mr. Yuck stickers as a child? I realize ammonia is a naturally occurring substance and can be already present in meats. When I really began to search my inner self about this angst, I found that what truly bothered me was the product being treated. This ammonia process wasn’t used on all beef. Slaughterhouses don’t give the fated bovines an ammonia bath before packaging. This process only is used on beef trimmings. Just say those two words to yourself slowly… pause and contemplate. Beef Trimmings.

raw ground meat?: i'd guess that the pink slime is what holds it together.
raw ground meat?: i'd guess that the pink slime is what holds it together.Courtesy cobalt123
Described by one source as a “pink slime”, trimmings are the last vestiges of muscle tissue left from a good butchering. It has been separated from the ‘majority’ of bone, cartilage and connective tissue. It is then spun by centrifugal force to remove fat, pressed, screened for metal, frozen, chipped, and pressed into 60 pound blocks. In the end, it only need be 12% visible lean tissue to classify as trimmings. The USDA has standards on what constitutes both meat and trimmings. This scrap used to be regulated to pet food and cooking oil. Do we really need to be mixing some into each of our double cheeseburgers? I’d be curious to know what percentage of trimmings makes up that quarter pound patty. Take out the trimmings and we can skip the whole ammonia question.

Recent questions are being plumbed by many parties about these food safety issues. Requests for documents have been met with some resistance by BPI. They seek to block any release of the research done by the Iowa State professor who published supportive findings. Now the courtroom waltzes begin and the delay of answers drags on. I’m certain this won’t be the last we’ve heard of those tasty ammonia treated trimmings.

I think i'll change that order to a chicken sandwich. That's 'free-range' correct?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Brittany Borger's picture
Brittany Borger says:

Which is exactly why I dont get hamburgers. I get the chicken anything. BUT im sure that that isnt any better when it comes to what is in it.

posted on Fri, 02/05/2010 - 4:00pm
preston's picture
preston says:

looks good can i get one well done please!

posted on Sun, 03/21/2010 - 2:16pm
Kit Foshee's picture
Kit Foshee says:

Why is BPI allowed to post information about the Iowa State study on their website, but not make the document public? The National Food Lab study also on the BPI website should be viewed harder. As the EX-BPI employee that first brought this to light it would not be difficult to bring large discrepancies to light.

posted on Mon, 02/14/2011 - 3:25pm

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