Public schools in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas have all placed orders for lean finely textured beef, the highly processed meat product that caused the "pink slime" controversy last year.
Politico reports that processed beef containing pink slime represents a significant monetary savings for schools:
"But as schools across the country grapple with tight budgets, some are changing their minds and accepting the lower-price alternative product that brings down the price of the food they serve. Schools in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas have now done an about face and also put in orders with the USDA for ground beef that may contain the product, government data obtained by POLITICO reveal.
It’s no wonder. Lean finely textured beef brings down the cost of ground beef by about 3 percent, which can add up quickly in a program that feeds more than 31 million school children each day."
For those who missed the fuss, pink slime is made from parts of the cow carcass that are otherwise considered too fatty for human consumption, and were once left for pet food. These trimmings are centrifuged to make them leaner, then reconstituted. Because these parts of the cow are more susceptible to E-coli, the slime is treated with ammonia.
Although the United States Department of Agriculture has repeatedly stated that the product is safe, The New York Times found:
"In testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the U.S.D.A. about the effectiveness of the treatment. Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated. The meat was caught before reaching lunch-rooms trays."