Beef Advocates on High Alert

March 15, 2012 04:23 AM

Beef advocates were busy this week making sure the facts and accurate resources were available to dispel some of the negative press that has hit the beef industry.

Daren Williams, Executive Director of Communications at National Cattlemen's Beef Association, helps train beef producers to advocate for their industry through the Master of Beef Advocacy Program (MBA). With all the negative news this week, he says, graduates of the MBA program stepped up to help get accurate information out with the facts on these different issues so that consumers and producers can make informed decisions. And what creates a greater challenge is that these stories spread through social media and went viral, which requires more eyes and ears to help present the facts.

In case you haven't heard the news, here are two of the stories that have put beef advocates on high alert:

BLBT gets slimed. The first point of attack happened last week when ABC News reported on "pink slime," or boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT) or Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB).

The story claimed that 70% of all ground beef in the retail sector contains the product and featured two former USDA officials who are opposed to the use of the product in ground meat. BLBT is a form of beef that is made by separating lean beef from fat.

"To make the product, beef companies use beef trimmings, the small cuts of beef that remain when larger cuts are trimmed down," explains American Meat President J. Patrick Boyle. "These trimmings are USDA inspected, wholesome cuts of beef that contain both fat and lean and are nearly impossible to separate using a knife.  When these trimmings are processed, the process separates the fat away and the end result is nutritious, lean beef. It’s a process similar to separating cream from milk."

In addition, one process uses food grade ammonium hydroxide to destroy bacteria in BLBT. Ammonium hydroxide is used in processing foods like baked goods, cheeses, chocolates and some beef products. This is not the same type of ammonia in household cleaners, according to information on

"It is classified as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is approved in most other countries, including the European Union. When used for meat processing, ammonium hydroxide creates an environment that is unfriendly to pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli O157:H7 and provides a significant food safety benefit."

Beef and cattle producers are encouraged to get the facts on BLBT to help counter any general assumptions that exist. 

Study links red meat consumption to premature death. Then on Monday, a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine said that eating red meat on a regular basis increased the likelihood of dying early from cancer or cardiovascular disease.

The study tries to predict the future risk of death from cancer or cardiovascular disease by relying on self-reporting about what was eaten and to apply statistical analysis to the data. "This imprecise approach is like relying on consumers’ personal characterization of their driving habits in prior years in determining their likelihood of having an accident that kills them in the future.  It has a high likelihood of giving erroneous conclusions," according to the AMI press release. 

"Red and processed meat continues to be a healthy part of a balanced diet and  nutrition decisions should be based on the total body of evidence, not on single studies that include weak and inconsistent evidence and stand in contrast to other research and to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010," said Betsy Booren, AMI Foundation Director of Scientific Affairs.

Beyond the major weakness of this being an epidemiological study which uses survey data – not test tubes, microscopes or lab measurements–the researchers method of collecting and analyzing their data is highly inaccurate, says AMI. 

"Too often, epidemiological findings are reported as ‘case closed’ findings, as if a researcher has discovered the definitive cause of a disease or illness. But epidemiological studies look at a multitude of diet and lifestyle factors in specific volunteer human populations and use sophisticated statistical methods to try and tease out relationships or associations between these factors and certain forms of disease. This method of comparing relationships has many limitations which are widely recognized by researchers in this field. More often than not, epidemiological studies, over time, provide more contradictions than conclusions," Booren said.

Resources & Links

Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) "Pink Slime" Links:

Beef Nutrition

What beef advocates are saying:


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Spell Check

3/20/2012 08:00 AM

  Among other interesting factors about it's creation and ingredients, part of the processing includes an ammonia bath. Could that ammonia be completely removed? Not completely, according to Inger Pols of the New England Health Advisory: "Now to be clear, untreated meat has a natural ammonia level that rates about 6 on the pH scale, similar to milk or rain water. But this company found that if they treated the beef with an ammonia process that resulted in changing the pH level to about 10, they could kill the E.coli and salmonella. That is an alkalinity that surpasses the range of most foods. Pink Slime So they took their study to the U.S.D.A., who was worried about E. coli and salmonella. One former U.S.D.A. microbiologist admitted that he and several scientists were concerned that no independent validation of safety had been provided. Another, Gerald Zirnstein said the processed beef looked like "pink slime" and went on to say "I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling." But in the end, the U.S.D.A. not only approved the ammonia processed meat, they were so pleased with the performance of the ammonia process that when they started routine testing of the hamburger meat, they exempted the company, considering their meat safe enough to skip testing. The Agricultural Marketing Service, the U.S.D.A. division that is responsible for buying food for school lunches, seemed to be a voice of reason. Complaints were made about the smell and a 2002 memo states that they "had to determine if the addition of ammonia to the product is in the best interest of the A.M.S. from a quality standpoint." In addition, they stated, "The product should be labeled accordingly." A top lawyer and lobbyist for the meat industry argued on the company's behalf that another company had just received approval to not disclose a chemical used in treating poultry, so therefore this company shouldn't have to disclose the ammonia. He won. The Food and Drug Administration approved the ammonia process, considering it safe when used as a processing agent in food. Making Money from Meat Previously Unfit for Human Consumption. Fortunately, since the Fast Food industry turned thumbs down on it, the USDA decided to make the use of it elective for each School District. I guess that makes me a "Whining 18 year old", as I've not found a satisfactory figure for my RDA's of Ammonia, so I'll eat all the Steak, Roasts, Ribs, and honest-to-grill Burgers our fine American Beef Producers can create...bu no pink slime. The "Pink Slime" (Oddly, as the excerpt from the article above, the person that coined the name was a USDA Microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein, who would only recommend it for a possible filler.)is still (and SHOULD be) under study in University settings. One negative factor was found by Drs. Yang & Butler, researchers at the National Center for Biotechnology Investigation, who determines,"The effect of ammonium chloride was determined on a culture of CHO cells transfected with the human erythropoietin (EPO) gene. Cell growth was inhibited above a culture concentration of 5 mM NH(4)Cl with an IC-50 determined to be 33 mM. The specific production of EPO increased with the addition of NH(4)Cl above 5 mM. At 10 mM NH(4)Cl, the final cell density after 4 days in culture was significantly lower but the final yield of EPO was significantly higher. This appeared to be due to continued protein production after cell growth had ceased. The metabolic effects of added NH(4)Cl included higher specific consumption rates of glucose and glutamine and an increased rate of production of alanine, glycine, and glutamate. The EPO analyzed from control cultures had a molecular weight range of 33-39 kDa and an isoelectric point range of 4.06-4.67. Seven distinct isoforms of the molecule were identified by two-dimensional electrophoresis. This molecular heterogeneity was ascribed to variable glycosylation. Complete enzymatic de-glycosylation resulted in a single molecular form with a molecular mass of 18 kDa. Addition of NH(4)Cl to the cultures caused a significant increase in the heterogeneity of the glycoforms as shown by an increased molecular weight and pI range. Enzymatic de-sialylation of the EPO from the ammonia-treated and control cultures resulted in identical electrophoretic patterns. This indicated that the effect of ammonia was in the reduction of terminal sialylation of the glycan structures which accounted for the increased pI. Selective removal of the N-glycan structures by PNGase F resulted in two bands identified as the O-glycan linked structure (19 kDa) and the completely de-glycosylated structure (18 kDa). The proportion of the O-linked glycan structure was reduced, and its pI increased in cultures to which ammonia was added. Thus, the glycosylation pattern altered by the presence of ammonia included a reduction in terminal sialylation of all the glycans and a reduction in the content of the O-linked glycan. The addition of a sialidase inhibitor to the cultures had no effect on the ammonia-induced increase in EPO heterogeneity. Also, the effect of ammonia on glycosylation could not be mimicked using the weak base chloroquine in our system." Inhibiting Cellular growth wouldn't be considered by most of us as a good thing. The FDA MSDS Data Sheet says this: "Safety: The FDA lists Ammonium hydroxide as a binding and neutralizing food additive (B&N) that is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) and permitted as an optional ingredient in standardized food (FS). Somebody needs to rub a little ammonia across their computer screen, so they can get a good look at the Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Ammonium Hydroxide. My favorite is: DANGER! Causes eye and skin burns. Causes digestive and respiratory tract burns. Harmful if swallowed? That's pretty crystal clear, but wait, there's more. It's listed as a hazardous substance under the U.S. Federal Clean Water Act and OSHA lists it as a highly hazardous substance. The state of New Jersey has it on a Special Health Hazards Substance List, which warns that Ammonium hydroxide forms dangerous and highly toxic gas under thermal decomposition or combustion-that would be heat, as in cooking. And you thought heartburn was from eating something spicy." So, does that finish the discussion? not necessarily, but does indicate a bit more study should have been done. We have a nation full of people who are frankly less healthy now than even a decade ago, with escalating Medical costs, and diminishing opportunities for the Medical care remaining. It simply means we need to take a harder look at this one, something big companies seem loath to do, more and more. Now, there may be some good news, if the regulators get out of the way. We HAVE some of the best Beef ever produced in history, who could directly supply all the schools with a USDA lunch program. This is much better quality AND would put more money into the pockets of the individual Farmers and Livestock producers. That won't help the big processors,but WILL help Farmers, not the mention those the Lunch Program serves. I think it's worth a look.

4/4/2012 05:11 AM

  @Ric Ohge You seem like a well educated individual blurting out all kinds of crazy facts with the intention of scaring people. All the credible information I have been able to find would indicate that this is a 100% safe beef product which has gotten a bad wrap by the agenda of those in the media. It is separated mechanically from fat. Seems like an attempt to utilize as much of the animal as possible, which can only be good for the entire beef industry. The ammonia, which is used as a processing agent in many foods, exist naturally in beef is introduced in gas form to create an environment unfriendly to bacteria. I believe that individual arm with quality information, have the tool to, and will make good decisions. Check out

4/15/2012 04:41 AM

  Well, according to the GOP's presidential candidates, the Federal Government job is solely "wealth" protection for its citizens. If this is true, then I see nothing wrong with the FED's approval of LFTB (pink garbage) as an additive to ground beef. But NOT disclosing the added pink garbage to the ground beef is a SIN worthy of going to HELL dead or alive! The least we should do is: EXILE our elected officials!! The only thing our FEDERAL government has accomplished the last 40 years is to sanction corporate SCAMS! Thank you, tricky Dickie and RR.