Does the American public really know what's inside the ground beef they're eating? A new report claims much of that meat is filled with what's being called "pink slime."
Several popular fast food chains have agreed to using the filler. But what about the beef at your local grocery store?
According to new reports, the chemically-enhanced filler wasn't only used in fast food burgers, it's in 70 percent of the ground beef Americans purchase at the supermarket.
"It is economic fraud. It's not fresh ground beef. It is a substitute," said Gerald Zirnstein, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist.
Zirnstein said he and his colleague, retired USDA microbiologist Carl Custer, warned against using the beef substitute, but their boss overruled their protests.
The beef industry calls pink slime "lean finely textured beef." However, it's really waste that butchers reject, like connective tissue and excess fat.
These trimmings were once only used in cooking oil and dog food.
Now the waste is collected, treated, and then sprayed with ammonia to kill any bacteria. Then it's added to ground beef as a cheap filler.
But don't go to the grocery store looking to find pink slime on any food labels. USDA officials allow the beef industry to label it as meat, according to Custer.
"The undersecretary said, 'It's pink; therefore, it's meat,'" Custer noted.
The person who approved the mix was former Undersecretary of Agriculture Joann Smith. After stepping down from the USDA, she was appointed to the board of directors of Beef Products, Inc. who makes the beef filler.
She's made more than $1 million while serving on the board over the past 17 years.
- Originally aired on March 9th, 2012