When discussing LFTB, it helps to have a general understanding of the slaughter process as a whole. Slaughter operations may be conceptually regarded as disassembly lines. As cattle move through the production area, they are cut into products like steaks, roasts, and trimmings. Unbeknownst to many consumers, however, the sustainability of cattle production in the United States is dependent upon the harvest of the animal in its entirety. In addition to beef products, cattle are used for an assortment of products, including soap, animal feed, pet food, fuel, candy, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
As muscle cuts, like steaks, move down the production line, they are trimmed of extraneous fat. This process gives steaks the lean appearance consumers are accustomed to. Attached to those trimmings are small bits of muscle (or lean) tissue that for a long time were not economically feasible to separate from the fat. The manual process is comparable to extracting the lean bits from bacon strips by hand, leaving the fat behind. In the beef industry, those lean bits, when all is said and done, are the equivalent of 1.5 million cattle each year.
Eldon Roth and BPI developed a system that could separate the lean from the fat simply and effectively. This stroke of genius revolutionized the beef industry as we know it. To be clear, LFTB is beef—nothing more, nothing less.
The BPI Process
BPI purchases large quantities of fatty trimmings that have been separated from the cuts of muscle. Anyone who has ever grilled a hamburger understands that as beef heats up, the fat melts, separates from the hamburger, and falls, sizzling, into the coals.
BPI’s process for making LFTB is similar, except that the temperature is not raised to the point when the lean product begins to actually cook. In the case of LFTB, the trimmings are heated to approximately one hundred degrees—cooler than many restaurant kitchens—to soften the fat. Once heated, the product is placed in a centrifuge (a spinning colander) and rotated at high speeds. The fat separates and disperses, leaving behind the lean beef. The USDA has never required labeling of beef products containing LFTB, because LFTB is beef.
Much of the misinformation in the campaign against BPI has related to the process of treating LFTB with ammonium hydroxide gas. Ammonium hydroxide is a mixture of ammonia and water. It is used in the processing of baked goods, cheese, chocolate, pudding, gelatin, caramel, potato chips, raisins, and soda, among other things. Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen that occurs naturally in all plants and animals, including cattle and humans. It is a base, as opposed to an acid, meaning its pH is higher than seven. Pathogens like E. coli O157:H7 thrive in acidic environments, like the intestines of cattle, where O157 originates. Using ammonium hydroxide gas to increase the pH of LFTB slightly deprives E. coli O157:H7 and other pathogens of the stable environment they need to survive and replicate. The amount of ammonia is minute. To put it in perspective, a tofu burger contains four times as much ammonia as a hamburger containing LFTB.
To say that LFTB is “soaked” in ammonia is false and disparaging. It is exposed for less than a second to a minuscule amount of ammonia gas.
To say that LFTB is “soaked” in ammonia is false and disparaging. As LFTB exits the centrifuge, it travels through a pencil-sized tube where it is exposed for less than a second to a minuscule amount of ammonia gas. This exposure raises LFTB’s pH, reducing the product’s acidity and making it a safer product.
The food industry works hand in hand with government and spends billions of dollars each year to enhance food safety. BPI has, from the beginning, been a leader in the industry. Unfortunately, science, research, facts, and empirical data will never generate the advertising revenue that “pink slime” will.
An Excellent Product
BPI’s LFTB is a safe, wholesome, and healthy product. Taste tests show that hamburgers with LFTB are better tasting, leaner, and juicier than those without. The product keeps beef prices low, ensures the employment of thousands, and, most importantly, is produced by a company that is not only on the cutting edge of food safety but is also willing to put its money where it matters. Donley, who is generally understandably skeptical about the professed corporate commitment to food safety from for-profit companies, confirmed in a recent opinion piece that, when it comes to food safety, “not all companies walk their talk. BPI does.’”