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How did it come to pass that cheap hamburger smells like ammonia? The New York Times’ Michael Moss tells the story today on the front page of his paper.

He tells us that Beef Products Inc., a South Dakota company, was looking for ways to use beef scrap — stuff that was “once relegated to pet food and cooking oil.” The trimmings were prone to be contaminated, but Beef Products had a solution: They would inject the scrap with ammonia that would kill E. coli and salmonella. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said okay and off Beef Products went on its new venture. The USDA thought the ammonia injection solution was so effective that it exempted Beef Products from inspections of hamburger meat in 2007. The ammonia-ized meat was off to be eaten by all of us at McDonald’s, Burger King and most other fast-food firms.

Turns out that this method was not as good as everyone thought. School lunch officials have been finding salmonella in burgers for years. Moss goes on to explain how meat inspection is not protecting people from tainted product. Not to mention that the meat we’re eating tastes like the mixture we use to wash our floors. Good story!!

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