Pink Slime or Lean Beef?

March 28, 2012 - Leave a Response

Tonight at 10, we showed you the beef industry’s response to the pink slime scandal that’s been all over the news and internet the last several months. We did our best to fit in answers to all of the questions you sent us through Facebook, but inevitably- something gets left out. I am leaving all that information that got left on the cutting room floor here.

Andrew Chavez asked “I’ve been wondering Is this the same Pink slime Used for McDonalds Chicken Nuggets?”

Answer: No, but there is a similar processing technique used to make chicken nuggets. We were told by federal regulators that this picture (right) circulating that everyone claims is the “pink slime” used in lean beef trimmings is more likely “mechanically separated chicken.”  Nice.

Desiree’ Dedeaux-Brown asked “How do you know if the ground beef you’re buying has this stuff in it?”

Answer: HEB, Fiesta, Whole Foods and Costco all say their ground beef has never contained the trimmings. Since the recent reports, Kroger, Randall’s and Target have pulled the beef with trimmings from their shelves. A WalMart spokesperson sent me a statement saying that WalMart and Sam’s do carry it, but they will begin carrying beef without it as quickly as possible. Here is WalMart’s statement that was emailed to me: 

“As a result of customer and member feedback, Walmart and Sam’s Club will begin offering fresh ground beef that does not contain lean finely textured beef (LFTB). We are working aggressively with our suppliers to have new offerings in our stores and clubs as quickly as possible. As these products become available, associates in our meat department and at our customer service desks will share updates with customers who inquire.While the USDA and experts agree that beef containing LFTB is safe and nutritious, we are committed to listening to our customers and providing the quality products they want at prices they can afford.”
If you purchase meat with the “USDA Organic” logo on it, it will not contain the lean beef trimmings because the ammonia hydroxide that they treat the meat with is  not certified organic.
Melissa Crabtree asked: “How do you know if your school district buys food for school breakfasts and lunches that contain this stuff?”
Answer: You have to ask your school district.. and they will even have to do some homework to figure it out. HISD checked with the 3 vendors it purchases beef from to find out if any of them got their beef from the company that produces the product in question. Not all districts we contacted did their research to give us what I would consider a satisfactory answer. Here are the responses from the school districts we contacted: 
Houston ISD

All HISD ground beef suppliers have confirmed this week that they do not use lean finely textured beef.

Houston Independent School District officials contacted the suppliers soon after concerns were raised about lean finely textured beef, also known as pink slime. As of Wednesday afternoon, each vendor had supplied HISD with written documentation confirming they have not sent the district any of the controversial products. In addition, HISD officials have inspected about $800,000 worth of frozen ground beef stored at the district’s food services facility and confirmed it does not contain lean finely textured beef.

In the future, HISD will decline to purchase any products that contain lean finely textured beef.

Fort Bend ISD

 Fort Bend ISD would not want any of our beef products to contain this filler.  However, if USDA had the filler added to the ground beef in their procurement practices and this product was distributed to school districts nationwide; then there is the possibility we have it in some of our entrees. We will do our best to ensure products purchased do not contain this filler and product specifications will be evaluated and modified as appropriate.

The Fort Bend ISD Child Nutrition Department will use all possible checks and balances to ensure this filler is not contained in any products purchased by the Department.  Our goal is for parents to be confident the best quality food products are purchased and prepared for all meals served in the school cafeterias.

Gail McIntire-Stotler

Child Nutrition Director

Fort Bend Independent School District

Aldine Independent School District
Aldine ISD’s Child Nutrition Services purchases ground beef products from 3 vendors.  1.  Advance Pierre Group – does not sell Lean Finely Textured Beef processed with Ammonia Hydroxide2.  JTM Food Group – does not sell Lean Finely Textured Beef processed with Ammonia Hydroxide3.  Sysco Houston – does sell Lean Finely Textured Beef processed with Ammonia Hydroxide and Aldine is currently purchasing a very small amount (5% of total beef purchased).Even though the use of ammonia hydroxide  to manufacture Lean Finely Textured Beef is approved by USDA and has been proven to be wholesome and safe, Aldine Child Nutrition Services is immediately changing beef purchased from Sysco Houston to a product without ammonia hydroxide.
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD
The district contracts with vendors other than USDA, but we haven’t received information about their inclusion of the finely textured beef. However, next year, due to our bid specifications, no vendors will be used that uses the lean, finely textured beef.
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD participates in the National School Lunch Program and receives about $2.2 million in donated food commodities from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) One of these commodities is bulk ground beef. Although the USDA stands behind the safety of the ground beef that they provide for lunch programs, the use of finely textured beef in shipments of bulk beef will be discontinued next year. Given the choice, CFISD will be opting out of the shipments of finely textured beef. In CFISD, students have options other than ground beef; they can choose a hot entree, a hot sandwich item, a hummus lunch box, a yogurt and string cheese lunch box or a variety of entree salads.
Katy ISD
The district didn’t send me a written statement, but the district representative Steven Stanford told me that Katy’s private beef vendors didn’t give them beef with the trimmings in the past, and moving forward, the district will opt to buy ground beef without the lean finely textured beef trimmings.
Conroe ISD

Conroe ISD is a member of the Gulf Coast Co-Op which includes districts from Galveston, Montgomery, Walker, Grimes, Brazoria and Harris Counties. Manufacturers apply to the USDA to be approved to process products for school districts. For almost two decades, Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) has been an acceptable component of the ground beef purchased by USDA for distribution through the National School Lunch Program as well as for commercial purposes.

Upon contacting our beef manufacturers, they sent us a statement that USDA commodity meat is purchased by the USDA under their approved specifications.

The CISD Child Nutrition Director has received unofficial information that next year, districts will have the option to receive commodity beef where LFTB has not been added. If given the option, CISD will not be using any beef that has undergone this added component.

Questions regarding USDA Foods beef should be directed to the USDA Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) office.

We emailed and called Alief ISD, but they never responded to our questions.

Joel Salazar asked: “Why would I want this (the pink slim) added to my hamburger meat. Is there a nutritional value?”

Answer: According to the American Meat Institute, the nutritional value of lean beef trimmings is about the same as regular ground beef. They claim there is no connective tissue, tendons or anything other than muscled meat treated with ammonia hydroxide (a puff of gas) to kill pathogens.

Russell Shawn Harris asked: “If you took a patty made up of 100% pink slime, what would the patty reduce down to? Would there be nothing left and only liquid fat in the pan or just a smaller patty?”

Answer: Good question, Russell. It’s hard to say because the product is never sold or eaten as 100% lean beef trimmings (aka: pink slime). The USDA says when it is mixed with regular ground beef, there is never more than 15% of the beef trimmings. The AMI spokesperson said that the beef trimmings are softer than regular ground beef because it was a bunch of small pieces of meat that were packed together and then ground up.

Stacey Morton Sims asked “How does “lean” and “trimmings” fit in the same description?”

Answer: According to AMI, the meat is removed from pieces of fat by a patented technique where workers heat the trimmings (not enough to cook it) just enough that the fat melts away from the little pieces of beef that would otherwise be too difficult to cut off individually with a knife. When that beef is separated from the fat, AMI and the USDA say it is very lean. There is almost no fat on it at all. 


Happy 100th Birthday Girl Scouts!

February 2, 2012 - One Response

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It’s one of my favorite events all year- the San Jacinto Girl Scout “Just Desserts” bash. Chefs from all over Houston choose a Girl Scout cookie and create a dessert with it. Girl Scouts and attendees get to judge the delectable creations. This year was extra special as the girl scouts celebrated their 100th birthday. I was lucky to be paired with Junior Girl Scout Chloe Carlson of Cy-Fair who sold 3,012 boxes of cookies last year. Way to go Chloe!

Women Bank Robbers

January 19, 2012 - Leave a Response

Tonight at 10- we’re talking about the increase in the number of Houston-area bank robberies committed by women. A neat tool an investigator told me about is Bandit Tracker. Law enforcement officers use it to see pictures of bank robbers all over the country… and compare the pictures and crimes to robberies in their own jurisdictions; but anyone can log onto the site. If you recognize one of the suspects, call the police agency investigating the case.

New HOA Laws

September 2, 2011 - 8 Responses

Thursday at 5pm, we aired a story about a slew of new HOA laws that came out of this Legislative session. Some took effect in June, some yesterday… and some will start in January. We couldn’t include all 32 of the laws in our 2 minute report; but some of you have called and emailed asking where you can get a list. For your convenience, I am posting all of the new laws here. The summary of each new law is very general. For specifics and exceptions, refer to the House or Senate bill or the Texas Property Code to read the law in its entirety.

Rain Barrel Rules  (Texas Prop. Code 202.007d)  HB3391   Effective 9/1/11

HOAs must permit owners to install and use rain-harvesting devices if they meet certain architectural requirements.

Solar Panels   (Texas Property Code 202.010) HB 362 Effective 6/20/11

HOAs must permit owners to install solar panels with certain permissable limitations.

Storm Shingles   (Texas Property Code 202.011) HB 362   Effective 6/20/11

HOAs must allow owners to install shingles of certain materials made to resist wind and hall, provide heating/ cooling efficiency, or generate solar energy.

Flags   (Texas Property Code 202.011) HB 2779   Effective 6/20/11

HOAs must permit owner to display the US, Texas or military branch flag, with permissible limitations.

Religious Display   (Texas Property Code 202.018)  HB 1278    Effective 6/20/11

HOAs must allow an owner to display religious items on his front door or doorframe, with certain permissible limitations.

Open Board Meetings   (Texas Property Code 209-0051) HB 2761  Effective 1/1/12

Board Meetings (regular and special) must be open to owners, with some exceptions.

Meeting Notice    (Texas Prop. Code 209.0056)  HB 2761    Effective 1/1/12

HOAs must give owners notice of an HOA-wide election or vote.

Recount Procedures  (Texas Prop. Code 209.0057)  HB 2761   Effective 1/1/12

HOAs must conduct a recount of an election vote if requested by an owner.

No Secret Ballots  (Texas Prop. Code 209.0058) HB 2761   Effective 9/1/11

Secret Ballots are prohibited.

Owner Voting Rights   (Texas Prop. Code 209.0059)  HB 2761   Effective 9/1/11

Owners may not be disqualified from voting for any reason.

Director Qualifications  (Texas Prop. Code 209.00591 & .00592)  HB 2761   Effective 9/1/11

Owner director qualifications are void; all owners may run for the Board.

Developer Director Transition   (Texas Prop. Code 209.00591c)  HB  2761  Effective 1/1/12

Establishes time frame when non-declarant owners must be elected to the Board.

Electronic & Absentee Ballots   (Texas Prop Code 209.00593 & .00592) SB 472 & HB 2761  Eff. 9/1/11

Electronic and absentee ballots votes are valid if the ballots meet certain requirements.

Director Appointment  (Texas Prop. Code 209.00593) HB 2761  Effective 1/1/12

Directors may not be appointed to positions whose terms have expired.

Election Vote Tabulators   (Texas Prop. Code 209.00594)  SB 472 & HB 2761  Effective  9/1/11

Only election vote tabulators allowed access to ballots.

Annual Meetings & Elections   (Texas Prop. Code 209.014) HB 2761   Effective 1/1/12

HOAs must hold annual meetings or owners may themselves call an election meeting.

Recording Requirement  (Texas Prop. Code 202.006) HB 1821  Effective 1/1/12

Unrecorded HOA dedicatory instruments are of “no effect.”

Website Posting  (Texas Prop. Code 207.006) HB 1821

An HOAs dedicatory instruments must be posted on an HOA “publicly accessible” HOA website that must include copies of all governing documents of the HOA (i.e., declaration, bylaws, rules, articles and all amendments).

Declaration Amendment  (Texas Prop. Code  209.0041  (SB 472)  Effective 9/1/11

Declarations may be amended by 67% of the Owners (or less stated in the declaration).

Open Records  (Texas Prop. Code 209.005)  HB 2761   Effective 1/1/12

HOAs must adopt and file an open records policy; open records procedures established.

Records Retention Policy  (Texas Prop. Code 209.005m)  HB 2761  Effective 1/1/12

HOAs must adopt a records retention policy; certain statutory time frames established.

Military Notice  (Texas Prop. Code 209.006b)  HB 1127   Effective 1/1/12

Mandatory inclusion of military notice established.

Payment Plan Guidelines  (Texas Prop. Code 209.0062)   HB 1228  & HB 1821  Effective 1/1/12

Payment plans required and guidelines are mandated.

Application of Payments   (Texas Prop. Code 209.0063) HB 1228   Effective 1/1/12

Mandatory application of payments schedule.  States HOA must apply owners’ payments in the following order: delinquent assessments, current assessments, attorney fees or third party collection costs, other attorney fees, fines, other amounts.

Third Party Collections   (Texas Prop. Code 209.0064)   HB 1228   Effective 1/1/12

Required notice to owner prior to turning delinquent accounts over to a third party collection agent and certain contingency fee arrangements made unenforceable against an owner.

Copy Charge Foreclosure  (Texas Prop. Code 209.009)  HB 2761    Effective 1/1/12

No HOA foreclosure for copy charges related to books and records.

Junior Lienholder Notice  (Texas Prop. Code 209.0091)   HB 1228   Effective  1/1/12

Prior notice of foreclosure must be sent to junior lienholders.

Judicial Foreclosure  (Texas Prop. Code 209.0092) HB 1228    Effective 1/1/12

Non-judicial HOA foreclosures prohibited.

Foreclosure Amendment  (Texas Prop. Code 209.0093)  HB 1228   Effective 1/1/12

Foreclosure provisions can be added or removed by owners from declaration.

Lien Notices  (Texas Prop. Code 209.0094)  HB 1228   Effective 1/1/12

Confirms prior law that HOA lien notices and similar instruments affect title to property.

Transfer Fees  (Texas Prop. Code Chap. 5, subchap. G)   HB 8    Effective 6/17/11

Certain types of transfer fees are prohibited with  general exceptions for most HOA transfer fees.

Resale Certificates  (Texas Prop. Code 207.003)  HB 1821   Effective 1/1/12

New requirements and time frames for resale certificates are established.

Two other websites you might be interested in:

Bagged at Target

June 30, 2011 - 2 Responses

Have you heard about Target’s recyclable bag policy? If you bring a reusable bag to the store, Target will give you a 5 cent discount for NOT using one of its plastic bags.It seems like a good idea to get people thinking about recycling. But it seems like Target employees are missing the point. I recently walked to a Target near my house, pushing my son in his stroller. At the check-out, I told the clerk I didn’t need a bag because I could just put my purchases in the bottom part of the stroller. Then she refused to give me the 5 cent discount because she said I wasn’t using a recyclable bag. What??!?

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this is crazy.