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Fears of 'pink slime' lean beef product assuaged

In response to requests from school districts across the country concerned about “pink slime” in hamburger, the Agriculture Department announced today that it will offer more ground beef choices to schools in the National School Lunch Program. But both USDA and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association affirmed the safety of what is officially known as “lean finely textured beef product.”

“USDA only purchases products for the school lunch program that are safe, nutritious and affordable – including all products containing lean finely textured beef,” USDA said in a news release.

“However, due to customer demand, the department will be adjusting procurement specifications for the next school year so schools can have additional options in procuring ground beef products,” the USDA said. “USDA will provide schools with a choice to order product either with or without lean finely textured beef.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said that the product in question “is a 100 percent beef product produced from beef trimmings that yields an additional 10-12 pounds of lean, nutritious beef from every beef animal.”

“The production of lean finely textured beef prevents lean, nutritious beef from being wasted,” the NCBA said.

“This lean beef product, like all beef, is naturally rich in nutrients like zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins. It can be added to other cuts of beef to produce ground beef. Lean finely textured beef offers affordable nutrition for kids, which is critical given shrinking school budgets, rising food costs and the fact that for many kids, school lunch is the best chance at getting a well-balanced meal during the day. Hands down, lean finely textured beef is a safe, nutritious product that school districts can choose to include in their school lunch plans.”