Ask The Real Fitness Nerd: Pink Meat Paste Madness!

by Denis Faye | February 15, 2012

Today, I’m looking to the Nerd Herd for writerly inspiration:

I noticed that McDonalds has stopped using the “ammonium hydroxide and fatty beef offcuts” in their burgers: Is it true that they’ve cut out that disgusting gunk shown in Food Inc? I still would consider it immoral and unscrupulous to eat at McDumpsters, but it would at least allow me to sleep slightly better at night knowing my gunk gobbling friends are a small percentage safer. Shine your flashlight of nerdy truth on this story please!

– Seth

Good question, Seth. The short response is “yes.” According to MSNBC, McDonald’s has stopped using ammonium hydroxide-treated meat, but frankly, I don’t think this is much of a victory. Technically, this means that (literally) crappy fast food burgers are now a little less safe. Ammonium hydroxide, in addition to cleaning windows and staining wood, is an antimicrobial, meaning it inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi. Given the supply chain o’ apathy that McDonald’s beef travels down, from the slaughterhouses where workers aren’t that concerned if a little intestinal waste (read: bacteria-laden cow poop) gets into the meat, to the “kitchen” where teenage employees aren’t that concerned about poorly aimed sneezes, that “meat” – if that’s what you want to call it – needs all the help it can get.

Furthermore, it isn’t the ammonium hydroxide that makes the infamous pink paste so viscerally gross. It’s the fact that it’s a nearly liquified animal product (mechanically separated meat they call it) and that hasn’t changed. A lot of the fast food hot dogs, chicken nuggets, or simulated pork ribs out there still come from a similar goop – although probably not as much because restaurants are now federally mandated to let consumers know about it. But is it really that gross? It’s just ground up animal parts. Why is a muscle okay to eat, but not a beak? Heck, I’ll show you a bowl full of strawberry frozen yogurt that looks exactly the same. You won’t gag – although you should, given HFCS-laden fro-yo is every bit as unhealthy as pureed, chemically treated cow lips and assholes, IMHO.

And vegetarians are no better off. Next time we’re hanging out, I’ll show you a plate of textured soy protein (the stuff they make fake meat out of) and a plate of human boogers. You won’t be able to tell the difference. At least the boogers will be GMO-free, not to mention freshly picked.

I think the whole thing became an issue because British chef Jamie Oliver decided to make it his cause célèbre, which is swell and all, but I’d rather he focus on McDonald’s food additives that have actually been shown to be bad for you. I’m not familiar with any studies damning ammonium hydroxide. However, I think we all agree that the MSG in their sausage and scrambled egg mix is problematic. Same with the tumor-tastic Blue 1 and Yellow 6 that pop up in a few of their food items. At how could we forget the possibly cancer-causing sodium nitrate in their bacon?

But the problem is that most bacon contains sodium nitrate, so campaigning against it would be tough for Oliver cuz he’d need to purge his website of recipes like Mini Shell Pasta with a Creamy Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce.

I don’t mean to turn this into an episode of Beat Up The Brit. I like Oliver and the points he makes. However, fixing our food system is a lot bigger battle than many people think. Seth, I think it’s important to impress upon your junk food junkie friends that it’s no safer to walk under the Golden Arches than it was last year, no matter how much pink paste they avoid.

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7 thoughts on “Ask The Real Fitness Nerd: Pink Meat Paste Madness!

  1. Seth Mauldin

    Thanks for the increased aversion to golden arches! Write now my efforts are focused on getting our weekly eat out group to try a new local food joint each week, with an emphasis on places offering fresh food, preferably from sources in state. Instead of a “hamburger” from McDumpsters, I point out this place: http://hfcrave.com/index.html <--- This is a gourmet burger joint owned by a local farming family. All the beef comes from their farm where the cows are raised free of steroids, antibiotics, hormones, etc. Thanks for the article. It will be cut, pasted, (made appropriate for the church goers where i preach 🙂 ) and used to wage war against pink goop!

  2. Anonymous

    What I thought was interesting about the Jamie Oliver segment was after he showed the kids how the nuggets were made, they wanted them anyway. Knowledge isn’t always power, I guess.

    Not that I find anything wrong with McDonalds, in moderation. If I wan’t a Big Mac and large fries and Super large Milkshake once a month or year then I eat it. It’s when people use McD’s as a staple of their diet when things can go wrong i.e. McNuggets Girl from the UK.

  3. Anonymous

    What evidence? Wikipedia says on going studies are inconclusive (but we know not to take wiki as fact, obviously).
    There was a show briefly on Food Network that was science based. They tested things kinda like Mythbusters (but since they didn’t use hot redheads for a host and just Ted Allan they got canceled I think).
    Anyway they did a test on MSG and people’s perceived tolerance of it. It turned out that the people who thought they were MSG sensitive reported feeling bad even though the food in question contained ZERO MSG. And when they ate food WITH MSG but were told it was MSG free, they were fine. The room looked to have about 30 participants so obviously this was a rather small experiment.
    I think MSG phobia is along the same lines as Aspartame phobia and Sucralose and whatever other ‘artificial’ substances are out there. Although I think Monosodiumglutamte is more ‘natural’ than the artificial sweetener examples.

  4. D Faye

    Good point. Add artificial sweeteners to my list for McD’s to look into.

    I find it odd that anyone would advocate cherry picking which questionable substances need to be vilified. My point is that there are many dodgy things in fast food and just because one looks gross doesn’t mean it’s worse.


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