Greensboro, NC -- Pink Slime: Just the term makes you cringe, but do you even know what it is?
News 2's Lauren Melvin went straight to an expert to find out everything you need to know about "pink slime."
"Pink slime" has been around since the early 2000's, but it hasn't always been known as that.
"The 'pink slime' is really a negative connotation that's been devolved by people who don't like us using it," said Dr. Ralph Noble, Animal Sciences Department Chair at NC A&T University.
According to Noble, the proper term for what's become widely known as "pink slime" is actually "Lean Finely Textured Beef" or LFTB.
LFTB is heated up, ground-up beef scraps, fat and connective tissue.
"It's not something we picked up from a field somewhere, somewhere in a chemical lab, it actually comes from the carcass of a beef animal," said Noble.
Basically, LFTB is a cheap, natural filler. It's not added to steaks or roasts, just ground meats.
"Because it's ground so fine, it does take a different form, almost like when you see Gerber food for children. It's been ground up, looks like it's been rechewed!" said Noble.
But there's another reason "pink slime" gets a bad wrap.
When the trimmings are processed, they're treated with a chemical, ammonium hydroxide, to kill bacteria. It's essentially ammonia and water. Noble said this is one way to get rid of contaminants like E. coli and Salmonella.
"Normally, when we think about food recalls, it's never because we've added this to it, it's probably because we haven't decontaminated the carcass enough in these kinds of cases," said Noble.
We consume massive of ground meat. Manufacturers are always looking for ways to keep costs down, increase efficiency, and reduce waste. "Pink slime" is their answer.
"Rather than add to the cost, we've got a part of the carcass that we would normally think about discarding, we now see a way that we can reincorporate it back into that product," said Noble.
Noble said he's not worried about eating hamburger, and consumers shouldn't be alarmed either.
"It's going to have to be checked by USDA. It's going to already be investigated and studied by animal scientists, meat scientists, food scientists, to make sure it's acceptable and it won't cause any human harm," he said.
Noble said it's important to the public knows exactly what "pink slime" or LFTB is, so they know what they're eating and they're not afraid of ground beef.
"When the consumer is not comfortable with it, they'll go to chicken, they'll go to fish, but they won't go back to that beef," said Noble.
Neither Harris Teeter nor Fresh Market grocery stores use LFTB in their products.
In March, Lowes Foods announced the company had stopped using LFTB in its beef products.
Food Lion said they too have stopped selling products containing LFTB.
Because of the "pink slime" backlash, the USDA announced that schools that are part of the National School Lunch Program can choose to keep meats containing "pink slime" off the menu in their cafeterias starting this fall.
Beef Products Incorporated, or BPI, has been the main producer of LFTB. Last month, BPI suspended production at three of it's four plants and laid off almost half of its workers.
WFMY News 2