Millions of American parents send their kids to school every day with high hopes. They trust the school system to take care of their children’s minds, filling them with a relevant education, but that’s not all. Many parents also place their trust in the school’s dietary program to serve nutritious meals.
But last week, a large number of American parents had their hopes – and some of their trust in the school lunch program – dashed. If you haven’t heard about it in the news, there’s a new substance making its way into our children’s lunches, and it bears the wholly disgusting moniker of ‘Pink Slime’.
Pared down to its most nasty parts, ‘Pink Slime’ is just that: parts. It is the leftover scraps swept up from the butchering floor, cleaned with an ammonia-hydroxide wash, and mushed into a sludge that can be mixed into real ground beef as a filler. The beef industry calls it ‘Lean Beef Trimmings’, but I call it inedible. I can’t imagine that I would knowingly feed my children connective tissue and floor-picked scraps instead of fresh, real meat.
In fact, ‘Pink Slime’ has been banned for human consumption in the United Kingdom, and is usually sold to dog food companies, so lacking it is in real nutritive benefits.
But the USDA – who stands by the sludge’s safety if not its nutritive qualities – has plans to purchase 7 million pounds of ‘Pink Slime’ to distribute for use in school lunches across the country. And, frustratingly, much ground beef in the grocery store contains this nasty substance without being listed on any labels to warn us. Besides purchasing your own cuts of meat from local farmers and butchers and watching them grind it for you, there’s not much we can do to avoid ‘Pink Slime’ in our ground beef.
But we can avoid it in our children’s school lunches. If you are as grossed-out as I am about ‘Pink Slime’ being fed to our kids – in any quantity – the only immediate solution is to pack lunches at home. It means we have to take an extra ten minutes in the morning to throw some healthy food into a bag, but it also means we know what our kids are being exposed to: real food versus cutting-floor offal that no human should actually consume.
There’s no need to steer clear of school lunches as a whole. I believe some of what our schools serve provides a healthy supplement to meals children receive at home. But take a look at the cafeteria’s monthly menu. Hang it up where you’ll notice the days advertising anything beefy, and get ready to pack a lunch instead. I have no idea if our local schools are currently serving lunches containing ‘Pink Slime’, but I’m really not willing to take the chance.
If, like me, you sometimes struggle to come up with variety for the lunch box, think of it this way: almost anything you pack will be more beneficial than ‘Pink Slime.’ Pour last night’s leftover soup into a thermos. Pack chunks of cheese with grapes and crackers. Spread some chicken salad onto whole wheat bread. Cut up an apple and pair it with a scoop of peanut butter. Wrap deli meat and cheese into a tortilla.
The possibilities for homemade lunch are endless and diverse, though they do take a bit of planning. And I’ll plan until my brain goes numb if it means my children will avoid accidentally eating ‘Pink Slime.’