I'm a dental hygienist, pyrography artist, avid gardener, writer, vegetarian, world traveler, and many other things!
The average American consumes 8 oz. of meat per day; roughly twice the global average. Meat is generally seen as the staple that other foods must work around and support.
Though vegetarianism, veganism, and other diets are on the increase, ask around and you'll find that most Americans consider meat a necessity at almost every meal.
According to the American Meat Institute (AMI), "In 2009, meat and poultry industry sales totaled $154.8 billion. The meat and poultry industry’s economic ripple effect generates $864.2 billion annually to the U.S. economy, or roughly 6% of the entire GDP."
There's a lot of money in meat, and a lot of impetus to increase the yield that each animal brings. In fact, an entire branch of Meat Science studies new methods by which to increase meat yield in cows, chickens, turkeys, and pigs.
If these factory farms and corporations can increase yield just a small percentage, it rapidly adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars in increased revenue. $400-$500 million annually, to be exact.
Guess who's paying the price?
How AMR Works
Advanced Meat Recovery (AMR) is a simple process, "perfected" by Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), that allows manufacturers to "scrape bones" to get a higher yield per animal. Sounds straightforward, right?
With AMR, bones, along with the meat, tendons, connective tissues, and muscle fibers clinging to the bones, are pulverized in a hydraulic meat press. The mix typically includes most of the material from the outer surfaces of the carcass.
First the bones are cut into 6-inch sections, then they're pushed into the hydraulic compression chamber, where the bone chunks are pressed between two rotating cylinders, removing all of the remaining meat residue.
After compression, the meat residue is strained multiple times to remove any excess bone fragments and spinal column chunks. By liquefying the fat and extracting the protein via centrifuge, the result is a goopy slurry of "meat product" that can be frozen, shaped, and ground to a range of meat products. Artificial coloring and flavoring is added to make it palatable.
AMR meat residue is used as a standard component in ground beef, is a staple in McDonald's, Burger King, and other fast food chains, as well as in ground beef on your grocery store shelf, in TV Dinners, SPAM, and other processed meats like hot dogs and sausages.
According to the New York Times, "The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef [in 2008] alone." It saves them $0.03 per pound.
The majority of the hamburger sold nationwide contains AMR. Eldon Roth, owner of BPI, has boasted that his AMR is "in 70% of the hamburgers in the U.S., soon to be 100%."
Video: Pink Slime
AMR Is in 70% of Your:
- Ground beef
- Chicken nuggets
- Hot dogs
- Beef jerky
E. Coli & Salmonella Risk
Fatty trimmings are way more prone to contamination by E. coli and salmonella, and until 2001 were relegated to cat and dog foods, since they were considered "unsafe for human consumption." With the advent of AMR, this meat is now being sold to the public at increased prices. AMR manufacturers can greatly undercut companies selling "real" meat. Not only that, but AMR products do not have to be listed on food labels.
Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), no doubt seeing the $$ potential of using dog food-grade meats for humans, "fixed" the bacteria conundrum by coming up with a novel idea: why not use anhydrous ammonia to kill the bacteria, thus making the meat "safe" for human consumption? By safe I mean the USDA deems it safe. If you've read my article about meat glue, you know how much faith I have in this system of checks and balances.
In testing meat for the school lunch program, salmonella pathogens "have been found dozens of times in BPI meats. 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," according to the Times.
The article goes on to say that "school lunch officials temporarily banned their hamburger makers from using meat from a Beef Products facility in Kansas because of salmonella--the third suspension in three years, records show. Yet the facility remained approved by the USDA for other customers ."
Products containing AMR are not required to list AMR as an ingredient, though it's in your ground beef and in all processed meats. According to Wikipedia, "product produced by advanced meat recovery machinery can be labeled using terms associated with hand-deboned product (e.g., 'ground beef')."
BPI determined that by using anhydrous ammonia they could lower the bacterial count to "undetectable" levels. The problem? Well, first of all, the company was the sole sponsor of the two tests that the USDA used to OK these "meats" for human consumption. Carl S. Custer, a former USDA microbiologist, said he and other scientists "were concerned that the department had approved the treated beef for sale without obtaining independent validation of the potential safety risk."
Untreated beef naturally contains ammonia, and it's actually sprayed on corn silage to increase nitrogen content quite regularly. The problem? The pH is naturally about 6, which is similar to rainwater or milk. The Beef Products, Inc. study that won USDA approval used an anhydrous ammonia treatment that raised the pH of the meat to as high as 10, "an alkalinity well beyond the range of most foods." The company’s 2003 study cited the "potential issues surrounding the palatability of a pH-9.5 product." The pH scale works using powers of 10. An increase of pH 6 to 7 is ten times the difference. pH 6 to 8 = 10 x 10. pH 6 to 10 = 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 times stronger.
When alarm bells were sounding in 2002 about the "pungent odor" and strange taste of the treated meat, people complained and wanted anhydrous ammonia listed as an ingredient on food labels. A prominent lawyer and lobbyist for the meat industry won the case for BPI. Federal officials agreed to the company’s request that the anhydrous ammonia be classified as a "processing agent" and not an ingredient that would be listed on labels.
“It was frozen, but you could still smell ammonia,” said Dr. Charles Tant, a Georgia agriculture department official. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Since AMR beef was considered pathogen-free, it was not included in any of the recalls involving salmonella or E. coli . "[The USDA] decided [ammonia] was so effective that in 2007, when the department began routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public, they exempted Beef Products, Inc."
This has since changed, though AMR meats are still "cleansed" using anhydrous ammonia. The difference is that after receiving countless complaints about pungent odor and foul taste, they lowered the amount of ammonia used, many say by a substantial amount--rendering it somewhat useless against pathogens.
AMR beef tested by the Times for their December 30, 2009 article showed a pH of 7.75. Interestingly, BPI says that pathogens are "undetectable" at pH 8.5. Do the math. Not only that, but who says meat processors are paying attention to the rules to begin with?
Mad Cow Disease
The USDA requires removal of the spinal cord prior to AMR, due to inherent disease risks such as Mad Cow Disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy.) However, as the New York Times reported extensively in 2009, the USDA system of testing is somewhat inept. Marry that to a hulking system processing billions of animals yearly, and nothing good will come of it.
"(Meat processors) have shown over the past decade that they're incapable of following the guidelines set for them by the (US Department of Agriculture), and I'm afraid that because we're not going to have adequate enforcement, it would be better to not have the technology at all," said Dr. Michael Greger, chief BSE investigator for Farm Sanctuary.
It's unlikely that nerve tissue that works its way through the spinal column and through countless foramen, weaving its way hither and thither, will be, or can be, completely removed by hand prior to AMR. Have you seen how quickly factory workers "check" foods, and how much "product" they process in just one hour? How much of this stuff is ground up in the process is unknown, but chances are good that it's in there.
People wonder why Alzheimer's, allergic reactions, strange diseases, ADHD, and cancer rates are up. It's time to start reading labels and learning what you're consuming, don't you think? Not that that will help with AMR or meat glue (since they're not labeled), but if you don't know what an ingredient is, perhaps you should look it up or not be ingesting it or feeding it to your kids.
It's clear that the FDA, USDA, the school lunch program, and our governments are more interested in making a profit of $0.03 per pound of meat than in ensuring our safety. It's up to us to ensure that what we put into our bodies is wholesome, free from toxins and other chemicals, and nutritious.
You Are What You Eat:
It's true on a cellular level, even if you've never thought of it that way. Each food item we consume is broken down into its constituent parts. Our cells are fed by and formed by these basic components, and cells make everything in our bodies work. Remember cancer? We really "are" what we eat, so keep that in mind next time you're stuffing your face with hormone-injected beef, neurotoxic chemicals, and processed "foods."
What We Can Do:
- Abstain from eating meat, or decrease consumption
- Raise your own animals and grow your own vegetables
- Only buy meats and vegetables from local farms and co-ops
- Only buy organic meats, vegetables, foods, and products
- Abstain from eating processed foods, or decrease consumption
- Inform yourself by reading each label of each food you buy
- Inform yourself by doing online research and reading books
- Spread the word about health and longevity
Sources & Further Reading
- Evaluation and Analysis of Beef Contamination by Low Levels of Ammonia
- Safety of Beef Processing Method is Questioned by New York Times
- Andrew Weil, M.D. on Ammonia in Ground Beef
- The Huffington Post on Nugget Meat Paste
- Advanced Meat Recovery--What Is It?
- What is Anhydrous Ammonia?
© 2012 Kate P
Ardot from Canada on February 15, 2015:
Is this really true? Can they do that? That's just nasty! I guess no more cold cuts and minced meat for me!
fools on January 30, 2014:
You are fools. Enjoy paying more for "organic" while the air pollution and fancy alcohol drinks slowly kill you.
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on July 10, 2012:
The good news is it's easy to avoid these "foods" by buying organic and local. The bad news is a lot of people are too lazy to invest in their own health.
QualityContent on March 14, 2012:
Very good hub. Our food industry is out of control with the absolute horrible food we are producing. We need to go back to the land and just eat like we did in the past.
Loveofnigjht Anderson from Baltimore, Maryland on February 16, 2012:
Awesome Hub, you have given me a lot to think about.I love the fact that you have given what I thought was happening substance.I will be sharing this information and will be reading your meat glue Hub...thx 4 share
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on February 07, 2012:
I'm one of those people who would rather know than not, no matter how upsetting the information is. I'm glad I could shed some light on the meat industry. Thanks for all the comments!
WD Curry 111 from Space Coast on January 30, 2012:
Great job. We were better off as hunter gatherers and subsistence farmers.
Oh well, everything is better with hot sauce!
Cammiebar from Upstate New York on January 30, 2012:
This hub is very true, but some protein is required (but not as much as what Americans believe they should eat). But now I really regret that hot dog that I just ate.
Theocharis V from Piraeus, Greece on January 30, 2012:
What the...*&^%(. Gross! This is one useful hub. Thanks for sharing. I will share this hub myself. This is a really good hub.
Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on January 10, 2012:
Thanks for this. There's a lot of propaganda surrounding meat consumption, but there's a lot of truth to the fact that a lot of what's sold in America just isn't really safe.
I intend to share this some places.
Karen S Falcon from Las Vegas, NV on January 07, 2012:
I wouldn't go so far as to say there is "no benefit" to eating meat. Obviously our U.S. system is corrupt. But when we lived in Oregon, I raised and slaughtered our own sheep, humane and organic. We benefitted from the fresh meat.
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on January 07, 2012:
Hmm yup, I read "The Jungle" and I personally believe conditions in the "meat industry" have stayed the same, and have actually gotten much worse for the animals themselves.
SanneL, I'm glad you don't eat that stuff, either. :)
SanneL from Sweden on January 07, 2012:
Boy I'm sure glad I don't eat meat or processed foods!
Credence2 from Florida (Space Coast) on January 06, 2012:
Faceless39, I guess that we have to welcome ourselves back to "The Jungle". These are products are at best are unappitizing and at worse dangerous. There is the reason why it is dangerous to allow the industry to have too much imput over the decisionmaking of regulatory agencies. This is not just true for the meat industry but everwhere else. And who is it that complains that there are too many regulations and red tape? Looks like we need more rather than less Great article, Cred2
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on January 05, 2012:
It would make my day if I helped others see the pitfalls of meat eating. There is no benefit to eating meat. Be on the lookout for more articles about the meat industry. I spent 3 hours last night collecting information for another few meat expose articles. You won't like what you read.
poetvix from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country. on January 04, 2012:
This is by far the best argument I have heard to date for becoming a vegetarian. I'm getting sick just thinking about the hamburger I had a few days ago. Thank you for the education.
BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on January 04, 2012:
What makes this so horrific is that it is true. Yet, when I share this information with colleagues they just look at me blankly. Fine, you adults go on and eat it but must you give it to your children, should it be in schools.
With the millions and millions of pounds of beef recalled annually, massive consumption continues though no diet requires this amount of animal eating.
I contacted the USDA about all the recalled tainted beef and asked them why I haven't seen a major bon fire destroying this meat and the email I received back informed me that it is not destroyed. It is cooked and returned to the supermarket shelves as packaged and processed canned and frozen foods. Yes, you are right - this is big, big business. Nothing is thrown away.
While people in other countries demand quality food, we accept whatever is sold to us. I just cannot understand this lack of interest in our health.
Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on January 04, 2012:
Sounds positively awful. When I lived in the states always bought my meat from the local butcher. Now here in Riga, Latvia you should see what they call food and yes, you can get meat from the local farmers but it's so tough once you sink your teeth in it you can't open your mouth again. lol We eat mostly fresh chicken fillet or whole chicken from the market. Other than that no meat. And don't even get me started on the cold cuts and sausages around here we stopped buying those ages ago especially when we discovered a piece of cold cut that was dripping water.
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on January 04, 2012:
Thanks all for the great feedback and thanks Spirit Whisperer for the video. Unfortunately, I'm not done with the meat topic yet. There will be more on the way soon.
Xavier Nathan from Isle of Man on January 04, 2012:
I just had to post this to my FB wall.
Xavier Nathan from Isle of Man on January 04, 2012:
Both this hub and the one before it - Meat Glue: What It Is, And What You Should Know About It - are the best I have read on this subject and you have succeeded in converting me. Here is link to a video I thought you might also find interesting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNCGkprGW_o&lis...
peepingtomb on January 04, 2012:
Very well written and terrifying hub.
Karen S Falcon from Las Vegas, NV on January 03, 2012:
Gross. . . seriously, great hub. You put a lot of research and useful links into this work and I know it must have taken time.
I, personally, have never considered meat to be our 'staple or necessity' in the household and to plan our meals around the meat. Rather, we plan around vegetables, though we are not vegetarian. I've just been a single mom the past 16 years and meat is too pricey for me to buy more than once every couple weeks or so.
Still, I learned from your hub, thank you :-)
Moon Daisy from London on January 03, 2012:
I first clicked on this hub because I thought that the photo was of strawberry ice-cream. Was I wrong!! A very interesting hub, the part about school meals really made me think. Food for thought. (Sorry...)