It's easy to say you want to know all about what's in your food and where it comes from. You know -- farm-to-table, sustainable agriculture, heirloom parsnips and all that. But we all know that sometimes our go-to guy at the farmers' market is fresh outta parsnips, heirloom or otherwise, and more to the point, that sometimes we just want to load up the ol' Weber with additive-free charcoal, crack open a nine-dollar microbrew and burn us up a mess of big-ass juicy burgers.
And then along comes this whole pink slime deal.
As you've probably heard about a gajillion times via Facebook, ABC News recently introduced American consumers to a substance that goes by the comparatively innocuous name "Finely Textured Lean Beef," often shortened to FTLB or LFTB but henceforth best known as "pink slime." Yes, thanks to ABC and all your Facebook buddies, you're now armed with the knowledge that as much as 70 percent of all the ground beef sold nationwide is bulked up with puréed cow parts whose anatomical origin dictates that in order to be made "safe" for human consumption (as opposed to being set aside for dog food or cooking oil), they must be 1) simmered and 2) blasted with ammonia gas. At which point, as far as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is concerned, that there stuff is "beef."
Savvy gourmand that you are, you're saying, "Sounds tasty! Can you tell me how to be sure my patties contain this miracle of modern cow-cutting technology?"
This may surprise you, but when it comes to local grocers, it's sometimes simpler just to list the few ground-beef varieties that don't get slimed.
Todd Vasel, assistant director of marketing and advertising for Dierbergs, cites three ground meats that verified to be slime-free: Dierbergs signature Angus ground beef (sold by the pound), Dierbergs Angus beef ground sirloin tip (sold by the pound) and Naturewell ground beef (sold in two-pound packages).
As for the rest, "Other ground meats offered in our stores are sourced from suppliers that follow FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] and USDA regulations," says Vasel. "These products may contain USDA-inspected boneless beef trimmings."
Meanwhile, at Schnucks HQ, senior communications specialist Paul Simon says the chain "does not add Lean Finely Textured Beef to our ground meats." He lists the following as verified slimeless: Meat Master Ground sirloin and sirloin patties, Schnucks Never Ever (natural) ground round or ground round patties and Rain Crow Ranch 100 percent certified grass-fed beef (90 percent lean, 10 percent fat; 16-ounce package).
Adds Simon: "Other ground meats from a number of reputable suppliers may include LFTB as part of the USDA-approved beef-production process -- one that has been in place for more than twenty years. LFTB is not filler, nor is it something that is added to the beef. It comes from the same wholesome beef cuts used in the grind."
Speaking of the grind, next on our list is Mike Siemienas, national media manager for Shop 'n Save, who has this to say: "Our ground round and ground chuck meat offerings will never contain boneless lean beef trimmings, but in very rare circumstances we will use this particular type of meat in our ground beef in times of high demand. Always feel free to check with your Shop 'n Save butcher to learn more about our meat products."