McDonald’s Pink Slime: You Want Fries With That?

No, that's not a strawberry ice cream cone, soft-serve. That's a McDonald's Quarter Pounder waiting to happen.

Great news, fast food fiends.  McDonald’s, the absolute face of the fast food industry, announced last week that we can all rest a little easier because ever since last August, they stopped using “pink slime” as an ingredient in their hamburger “beef.”  Okay, so if you’re like us at Common Sense Conspiracy, your first reaction is why were they using pink slime to begin with.  Well, the answer is easy.  Ammonium hydroxide is a chemical used in fertilizers, household cleaners, and oh yeah, McDonald’s Big Macs.  The good news is that McDonald’s, no doubt under pressure, has discontinued its use of this chemical, which looks as it is affectionately called like “pink slime”.  The bad news is that ammonium hydroxide is as commonplace in the food industry as a whole as butter in a Paula Deen recipe.

Ammonium hydroxide is an anti-microbial agent that helps food manufacturers use meat that would otherwise be on the scrap pile.  It is so great for this, that meat that would otherwise be resigned to dog food can be magically treated and served to Americans and people worldwide.  This “inedible meat,” as the industry refers to it, saves them tons of cash because they are able to use every last little bit by treating it with a chemical also prominently used in explosives.  If you’re wondering how you can tell if what you are eating contains ammonium hydroxide, well, keep wondering.  You can’t.  However, if you see anything about “mechanically separated meat” or “meat product,” chances are the pink slime was involved.

Food personality Jamie Oliver famously took the industry to task for using ammonium hydroxide publicly long before McDonald’s sprung into action.  Oliver is on a bit of a crusade against this, and has said that the fact that they take meat that would otherwise be relegated to dog food and make it “fit” for humans offends him deeply.  This exposure probably had a lot to do with the McDonald’s change, but the fact is that there are a myriad of companies out there using this chemical in their food.  And they don’t have to tell you.  The USDA says that chemicals that are a “component in a production procedure” don’t have to be listed in the ingredients.  That’s why you never heard of ammonium hydroxide before now.

The bad news is that this chemical is almost impossible to avoid unless you cook all of your meals at home.  Any fast food or canned or frozen good that involves animal byproducts of any sort has probably been treated with the pink slime.  That, my friends, is the price you pay for convenience.