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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What's in Canadian ground beef?


Some time back, the New York Times did a piece on ammonia being used to make meat and fat trimmings from the cutting room floor safe for human consumption. This ammonia treated meat, some call it "pink slime", is used in the manufacture of ground beef in the States. As I read the article I thought, "Is this stuff in Canadian ground beef?"

Add: This post has been hit thousands of times. It is time for an update. First,  pink slime isn’t used in Canadian burgers – this is the word from Health Canada, which says it hasn’t ruled on the product because no one has asked. 

The other name for this product is lean finely textured beef or LFTB. LFTB is made in Canada but it does not use ammonia gas for sterilizing the mix. Read the Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations for FTB (Finely Textured Beef) or check the chart I've reproduced below



The American product, made with ammonia, may not be being used in Canada but Beef Products, Inc. states quite clearly on their Internet site: "Outside of the US, Beef Products' customers are located in Canada [bold type added], Mexico, and Japan." Maybe it is not the ammonia treated product that is being shipped north to Canada.

One must be careful what one says, especially when the stuff one is writing is being read in Canada, a country famous for "libel freeze"the filing of libel lawsuits with the goal of silencing critics. As a retired senior I don't need the hassle.

Recently Jamie Oliver made public calls for fast food restaurants to abandon the use of "pink slime." Possibly because of his involvement and the accompanying publicity a number of fast food restaurants have stopped using the product.


A Huffington Post article reported:

McDonald's announced it is no longer using the controversial ground beef additive known as "pink slime" in its hamburger recipe. Taco Bell and Burger King have also reportedly dropped the "slime" from the menu.


So, what else can I add as an update to this post? Well, read what BPI says on its own website. This info refers to meat sold in the States, of course, and not Canada.

"Beef Products, Inc. [is] the world's leading manufacturer of boneless lean beef. . . . "BPI's products are found in the majority of all ground beef produced in the United States. Current production of over 7 million pounds per week, makes BPI the world's largest manufacturer of boneless lean beef in the world. Eating a hamburger from a Quick Service Restaurant or buying ground beef from your local retailer, the chances are you'll be eating product produced by BPI."

Now, read the company description on Hoovers:

"Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) has ground beef down to a science. A top US provider of boneless lean beef, the company grinds more than seven million pounds of meat a week. Its customers include fast-food chains, restaurants, foodservice operators, meat packers, food processors, and the USDA's school lunch program. Its 60-pound blocks of frozen meat chips are used in hamburger patties, ground beef, hot dogs, beef snacks lunch meat, sausages, meatballs, and frozen entrees. The company touts food safety as a priority. It uses two metal detectors to scan beef before and after processing at its Sioux City, Iowa, manufacturing facility. Outside of the US, Beef Products' customers are located in Canada [bold type added], Mexico, and Japan."

Finally, is there any evidence that ammonia is still playing a role in the production of BPI "boneless lean beef"? The BPI site itself make direct reference to the use of ammonia in the  production of their popular product. BPI has an entire section of their online site dedicated to "The use of ammonia compounds in food processing." I had a link to a Canadian producer who used citric acid but the link is now broken.

My wife has stopped buying ground beef. She buys large, intact cuts of beef and grinds them herself, with my assistance. It is easy to do, quick and the final ground beef tastes much better than what we had been buying. Plus, it saves us money! The large cuts of beef sell, on sale, for less than ready-to-use ground beef.

26 comments:

  1. I also want to know, is there ammonia in canadian beef????

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    1. Since "pink slime" was being shipped to Canada when last I checked, it seems clear the stuff was in some hamburger being sold here. The question is: What hamburger contained the stuff?

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  2. http://fairwhistleblower.ca/content/whistleblower_legends_daniel_ellsberg_frank_serpico
    I watched this the other day the whistle blower who told about the amonia was on it so I looked it up today finding your site. I want to know what is in Canadian ground beef too.

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  3. All the more reason to buy from a local butcher shop (local beef) which are becoming sarce... Thanks for your blog, I've been enjoying them. Keep blogging, Karen from Bruce County...

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  4. We need to know?

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  5. Question.
    I heard that there are elevated levels of ammonia in autistic people. Is there a link between ammonia in beef and rising levels of autism?

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  6. Great post btw. I'm sure this pink slime issue will have a few people questioning what type of ground beef they buy.

    I stopped buying seafood, specifically shrimp if it orginated in China after the US banned it in 2009. Seems malachite green was the offender.
    Upon investigation, much of that cheap shrimp we see in CDN supermarkets is actually farmed raised in China, transhipped thru Indonesia, Thailand, and other South East Asian countries.

    Nice uh?

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    Replies
    1. Very interesting. I, too, have read a lot of bad stuff about shrimp farming in the Far East.

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  7. it shouldn't be this hard to access information in canada!

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    1. You are right, it shouldn't be this hard. Our newspapers, protected by the lawyers they have on retainer, could break the story and spell out all in great detail. Still, read between the lines and the story is fairly clear.

      I read between the lines and I now grind my own hamburger. I haven't bought hamburger in more than a year.

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  8. You are right, it shouldn't be this hard. Our newspapers, protected by the lawyers they have on retainer, could break the story and spell out all in great detail. Still, read between the lines and the story is fairly clear.

    I read between the lines and I now grind my own hamburger. I haven't bought hamburger in more than a year.

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  9. Read "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. There is a lot more in ground beef than just ammonia. I hope things have improved in the beef producing business since the book was researched but I doubt it. It makes me not want to eat beef of any type. I looked on a package of hamburgers to see where it was produced and all it said is "prepared for Sobeys, Mississauga". Does that mean it comes from sources they are ashamed to name? Why can't they disclose the source?

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    Replies
    1. They may buy from a number of different suppliers. It is not that they are ashamed, although who knows for sure. Most likely, they just don't make the effort to have unique labels for every source of their meat.

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    2. Look for the lot code/manufacturer number, its usually by the expirty date or upc. You can use that to find the manufacturer

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  10. develop a trust relatiopnship with your local farmer/rancher and get your meats from them. It's a no brainer

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most areas also have a local farmer's market that can be used. It's easier than going to the farmers directly, though often quite a bit more expensive.

      I actually have little objection to "pink slime" and similar products from a safety standpoint, even though it's gross. What I don't like is the taste.

      I worked for years as a cook, and having tasted both cheap and expensive ground beef (including things like "ground chuck"), there is a massive taste difference between the gross, cheap ground beef and the very expensive stuff.

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  11. Apparently ammonia salts are used in Canadian beef, but not ammonia itself. http://wmmdnw.hubpages.com/hub/Does-Canadian-Ground-Beef-Use-Ammonia

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  12. Some Beef Products Inc. customers are located in Canada according to the BPI site. BPI as you know is the company that developed the ammonia process in the States. Ammonia is probably not used in Canada as the BPI process is unique. But, since BPI ships its ammonia processed meat product to Canada, I think one might conclude that the stuff is being sold here.

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  13. Feed grade urea is made from ammonia and nitric acid, among other things... guess what is getting fed feed grade.
    http://www.yaracanada.ca/en/fertilizer/products/index.aspx

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  14. i hauled boxed beef from alberta to every us state for 12yrs ending jun 2011. i hauled boxed beef back to canada 50% of the time...never once did i haul ground beef from us to canada. hauled craploads of groundbeef to usa from canada.

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  15. If they called it 'organic meat purity' people probably wouldn't care so much.

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  16. Yeah, just slap the word organic on something ane everyone will assume its safe..

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    1. I used to work at the local newspaper. I'm quite familiar with the organic butcher shop in our market in the downtown core of town. The ground meat sold there definitely does not contain any "pink slime." It is my knowledge of the operation that gives me this confidence and not the organic label.

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  17. I mentioned this on another blog - if you don't want to eat
    "pink slime" the product is sold in the U.S. as "lean finely textured beef", note that it can be processed with either ammonia or citric acid and consists of boneless lean beef trimmings that have passed through a centrifuge. Unfortunately there is also "white slime" (type in meat slurry on wikipedia) which is used to make chicken nuggets.

    Any mechanically separated poultry or meat product COULD be made using this process. The lesson here is find out where your meat comes from. Talk to your butcher. Do research and find out how the chicken nuggets, hotdogs and other products made from trimmings (including some sausages) are manufactured that you're going to eat.

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  18. I personally REFUSE to buy any meat that is not clearly labelled a product of Canada.

    And I firmly believe that if the meat handlers in our supermarkets don't write the origin of the meat, then the meat is likely NOT from Canada, and VERY possibly the animals providing those meats were hormone-fed. That's another can of worms...

    SO-O-O, if a supermarket flyer advertises steaks, CDN or USDA
    beef, YOU CAN BET that they are from the US where salaries are lower, therefore the cost to the beef producers is lower which is the reason why supermarket owners buy the American beef: it costs them less to buy than Canadian beef so they can attract customers with lower prices.

    Furthermore, I think the previous bloggers are RIGHT: buy from directly from your local farm or from a reputable butcher.

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