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SALT LAKE CITY — When you hear the words "pink slime," you may imagine that stuff running through the old subway tunnels of New York City in Ghostbusters 2. You probably don't think, "Mmm, that's good eatin'."
But, it's not new. Utah Department of Agriculture spokesman Larry Lewis says lean finely textured beef (LFTB) has been around for at least 20 years.
"It's likely we've consumed some of it in the past if we consume ground beef," Lewis said.
A recent uproar over "pink slime" has some beef manufacturers saying they will remove the additive from their products. But some Utah food experts maintain LFTB isn't as bad as others are making it out to be.
One of the main concerns about LFTB is the use of ammonium hydroxide to eliminate E. coli.
Lewis says consumers should be able to choose whether they buy the beef with the "slime" in it or not. But Utah State University food scientist Dick Whittier says ammonium hydroxide is in a lot of our food.
"We find ammonium hydroxide in dairy products, confections, fruits, vegetables, baked goods, breakfast cereals, eggs, milk; there are all sorts of things that we use the ammonium hydroxide in," he explained.
Whittier also says removing the LFTB will increase beef prices, which are already historically high. If the product is taken out of the ground beef we already eat, he says, it will have to be replaced with something else, which will likely cost a lot more.
While Whittier admits there is a definite "yuck factor" around the term "pink slime," he says it really is just beef.
Even dietician Kary Woodruff, with The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in Murray, says LFTB is perfectly safe. Still, she says opponents of the beef may object to it for philosophical reasons.
"It's more of an approach of people saying, ‘I don't want the trimmings of meat products. I'd rather have the initial product,'" Woodruff said.
Contributing: Andrew Wittenberg