By Nathan Smith

For weeks now we’ve heard about “pink slime,” or lean finely textured beef (LFTB).

We’ve heard from “shocking” news reports that pink slime lurks like some sci-fi monster waiting to devour innocent consumers.

Since the first ABC news report, the media seems to be hell-bent to scare Americans away from beef.

All the hype made me wonder. Is this stuff safe?

Not being a scientist or expert myself, I started digging to find the truth about “pink slime.” After all, we have the right to know what’s in our food and where it comes from.

What is LFTB?

To know what LFTB is you should have an idea of how ground beef is made. Ground beef is not the same as a ribeye or sirloin steak but it’s still beef. The lower graded cuts not sold for premium prices are turned into ground beef. There are still trimmings that are usable for consumption and that’s where LFTB comes from. It’s not the best cut of meat true, but it’s all beef.

No, we are not eating ground-up bones or inedible parts of cows made into delicacies in third-world countries. This is 100 percent beef and it’s low in fat and high in protein, also.

What about the ammonia?

A puff of ammonia is shot out at LFTB to protect the meat from pathogens and disease-causing bacteria like E. coli. Left untreated, we could have a huge safety threat on our hands. When I first heard about this, I was myself taken aback. Until I realized that we produce 4 grams of ammonia in our bodies each day! The amount ingested from eating a burger each day for a lifetime would still not make a sizable impact.

Are companies slacking on safety for a profit?

Beef Products Inc. (BPI) has been making headlines lately for its layoff of hundreds of workers due to the suspension of LFTB production. The decision came in response to public outcry after seeing media reports about “pink slime.”

The company was accused of selling safety for profit. But looking a little deeper I found that not only did BPI go above and beyond USDA safety inspection requirements, they implemented a “test and hold” policy for safety and quality control.

Every box of LFTB is sampled, and the samples are sent to independent third-party labs for analysis. Every box of LFTB is held at the plant until the labs confirm that all specifications–including the absence of Salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria–have been met.

Should I be worried?

It’s up to us as consumers to take charge of our shopping baskets. We should educate ourselves and do the research. Call a state university and ask to speak to an animal scientist or expert. Ask questions, make observations and decide for yourself.

Is the media to blame for falsely tainting a safe beef product? Sure they are.

Do we have legitimate questions about our food? Of course. The answers are out there. But be sure of your sources before making a rash judgment.

Grilling season is almost here and I’ll soon have my fire started and burgers seasoned. Won’t you join me?