The ammonia-treated meat called “pink slime,” a term coined by former Emporian Gerald Zirnstein, is not being served by local schools – for now.
Nancy Horst, director of Community Relations for the Emporia School District, said the district follows guidelines from the USDA and the State Department of Education in reference to the school lunch program. She explained that the school lunch programs have not received any new directives about pink slime and the school district purchases their meat according to the Food Service Director and Assistant Superintendent for Business.
“We really haven’t changed the way we do our purchasing,” Horst said.
The Emporia School District’s current vendor is EVCO Wholesale Food Corporation, whose ground beef supply comes from AdvancePierre Foods. Horst said that they recently received a letter from the company assuring them that they do not buy ground beef from any company which uses pink slime or the ammonia process.
For the moment, Horst said pink slime is not an issue for the district because it is not in the food that they are currently purchasing. Horst said they can only give bids to vendors who are approved by the USDA. This means that if the USDA guidelines are changed to restrict the use of this ammonia-treated beef, the school district would follow those restrictions when vendors are selected.
But according to the National Public Radio website, “an estimated 70 percent of the ground beef supply contains these lean bits of meat.” This meat comes from muscle and connective tissue and is labeled as “lean, finely textured beef.”
Even so, Emporia State students can breathe easy since the slime is not currently used in Sodexo products purchased by the university, according to Executive Chef Saiket “Johny” Patwary.
“We do not serve pink slime,” Patwary said.
Patwary said that Sodexo’s meat is inspected by the USDA and is purified before reaching ESU. He also said that they check that the box is stamped and certified so that there are no questions of salmonella or pink slime.
Patwary emphasized that Sodexo is responsible for making sure that the meat students are served is certified and properly inspected by the vendor from whom they purchase.
But Patwary also said that he has been researching more about pink slime and has found that there may be some advantages in using the meat, such as the cost effectiveness. Patwary said that pink slime may be used in the future if it is approved by the vendor.
“I don’t have any problem with (pink slime),” Patwary said. “It’s actually considered a lean meat.”
Last month, Patwary approached students about pink slime in order to get their opinions.
“Not many students were aware of it,” Patwary said.
He said if students want to express their opinions about the use of pink slime they can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He wants students’ suggestions, comments or even criticism about the issue.
“I would like to see both sides of their point of view, why or why not,” Patwary said. “I want to make sure that I’m educated properly before I put it out in the cafeteria, so if I have students asking me questions, I can answer.”
For now, Patwary said that he would not be comfortable using pink slime due to health concerns and the topic being relatively new in the media.