More than a year after it was banned from school menus, Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) is making its way back into the lunchrooms of schools across the nation. LFTB, which was given the nickname pink slime, was banned during an investigation to determine if the product posed a health risk to consumers. USD 489 Food Services Director Jessica Calhoun told Hays Post that the phrase “pink slime” isn’t a good description for LFTB.
“The term pink slime is very negative and it does not really indicate what the product is. It’s just a different form of beef, a finely textured form of beef. Still 100% beef. It goes through the same food safety processes at the plants. It’s very safe to feed to children; it’s safe to feed to everyone. It has the same quality as regular beef.”
She said that the USDA determines what is and is not safe to serve to students, and though they put LFTB on a ban during the investigation, the USDA has ruled that it is safe. All beef goes through a sanitation process, and LFTB specifically goes through what Calhoun called “an ammonia puff” to rid it of any bacteria. While the district isn’t specifically requesting for the filler, it’s possible that beef served in area cafeterias could contain it.
Calhoun said that the district bids out for their meat supply every couple months (which is how the district can control their food costs), and it is possible that the winning vendor could have LFTB in their ground beef. She added that because of the bid process, staff can be specific about what they expect in a product. The district does not allow any vendors to supply beef with any extenders, binders, additives, water, or vegetable protein, all of which are added into beef to make it cheaper. LFTB does not fall into those categories, and according to Calhoun is not a cause for concern as it poses no risk to the health or safety of students.
One step the district takes to ensure the nutritional needs of students is met: utilizing choice bars in the cafeterias. All schools have fruits and vegetables available without portion restrictions (unlike some foods such as proteins and grains which do have portion restrictions based on calorie range). Calhoun said her staff is good about knowing which fruits and vegetables students at different schools enjoy so they’re more likely to fill up on healthier options, which is something the district is trying to promote. She believes the district has been and will continue to be successful in its efforts to balance nutrition and budget.
“Every day we strive to provide the kids with the high quality, nutritious, safe food that we can. And the managers do an excellent job of that at the school levels, as do the other staff. Keeping it within the budget is always a challenge, but with our bidding process it makes it so we can control all of those things to the best that we can.”