Have you noticed that ground beef doesn't taste quite the same? For years, Americans have bought into the idea that their ground beef was pure. All this, despite the fact that you can buy ground beef by quality: 80/20, 90/10 and 93/7. What is ground beef mixed with? Fat and assorted beef by-products. Clearly, most Americans are not eating pure ground beef and still consider this as healthy eats. Even this reality is now the past for most Americans.
The industry is generally mum regarding any mixture of ground turkey, ground chicken or ground pork. The industry is also quiet about a new change in your meat processing, a change which has been unleashed on much of the United States. This change is virtually guaranteed to offer more profits with the idea of protecting you from E.-coli and other food borne bacteria. The base of this blend is fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil. The ammonia infusion makes slaughterhouse trimmings with loads of fecal matter pass as “safe” for human consumption.
This new process is the brainchild of the “industry leader in boneless lean beef.” E.-coli and other food borne bacteria has been a major problem since all U.S. beef is processed in only 13 processing plants. Contamination is easy when the meat of thousands of cattle is blended together in a few large processing plants. This new process was the answer that government was looking for: assumed as safe by the industry and the FDA. In the words of Beef Products:
Ammonia is a naturally occurring substance that is contained in all life forms, from plants to animals to humans. Life forms could not have evolved and cannot survive without it. Ammonia is used extensively in the production of a wide range of food and beverages.
In this way, ammonia filler is considered to be entirely natural by the industry and government. The food industry admits putting ammonia and ammonia hydroxide in grains, baked goods, condiments, pancakes, chocolates, caramels, puddings and cheeses.
Similar to traditional U.S. ground meat processing, Beef Products converts beef scrap and waste into a filler infused with ammonia that is added back into ground beef that you eat. Officials at the United States Department of Agriculture endorse this ammonia treatment because it destroys E. coli “to an undetectable level.” In 2007, they decided the process was so effective, that when the department began routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public, they exempted Beef Products entirely.
70% of the ground beef sold in the United States contains this filler. Beef Products hopes to grow that number to 100%. Current major customers of this filler product include Burger King, McDonalds, major grocery chains, and the federal school lunch program.
There is currently no requirement for labeling regarding this filler product. Because of this, you have no way of knowing whether the ground beef you are buying at your local supermarket is “pure beef” with fat fillers or if the product that you are buying is a combination of ground beef and ammonia infused filler product. Can you taste the difference?
Untreated beef naturally contains ammonia, ranging about 6 on the pH scale. The Beef Products’ study that won USDA approval used an ammonia treatment that raised the pH of the meat to as high as 10. What is the answer for the end user of their product? They are instructed to blend their product with other ground meat to make it palatable. How is anyone expected to accomplish this feat if Beef Products filler is truly entrenched nationwide? What other by-products will industry use to solve the problem? Industry isn’t talking.
The consumer is left with three related, but separate issues: the risk of food poisoning from contaminated meat, the inability of the industry or government to trace meat back to the source as well as the inclusion of trimmings that have been treated with ammonia.
Now that you know the cold truth, what can you do to buy safer and tastier meat? The truth is that commodity ground beef has very little flavor, another reason why, at least for a time, Americans rushed for better tasting Angus and Buffalo burgers.
You can buy meat directly from the farmer, either face-to-face or online. Look for brand name beef with a label that clearly states the cattle were raised without the use of added hormones or preventative antibiotics. You can also choose grass-fed beef, which has better flavor and texture. A better idea may be to purchase whole cuts like Chuck Roast, Beef Brisket and ask a meat cutter to grind it for you on the spot. As a result, you will know that there are no ammonia-treated fillers in your burger.