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Pink slime is back. Question is: Who's using it?

EcosystemsConservationFood IndustrySafeway Inc.McDonald's
Which companies are once again using pink slime? That's a secret
Production of pink slime has doubled, but good luck finding out who's using it
The great pink slime mystery: Who's using the stuff?

Laura asks the same question I've been wondering myself: Which companies are using pink slime again?

For the uninitiated, pink slime, a.k.a. "lean, finely textured beef," is a mixture of the parts of the cow that everyone else doesn't want and chemicals such as ammonia to keep it fresh.

Pink slime is used as an industrial filler to make beef go further -- kind of like the way drug dealers cut their product with cheaper ingredients to make more money.

Eric Mittenthal, a spokesman for the American Meat Institute, said that lean, finely textured beef is "made up of trimmings," and that "a puff of ammonium hydroxide gas is used as an added food safety step, not as a freshness measure." He also disputed calling lean, finely textured beef a filler.

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One of the main producers of pink slime, South Dakota's Beef Products Inc., says it's reopening a plant it closed a few years ago after use of the yucky-sounding filler was reported in the media. At the time, about 70% of meat distributors, including grocery stores and food chains, were selling beef containing pink slime.

McDonald’s and other fast-food chains subsequently said they'd stop using the stuff. Some supermarket chains, including Safeway and Kroger, said they'd stop selling slimed beef.

That could be changing. Rising beef prices, caused in part by drought conditions in cow country, has prompted some who'd stopped using pink slime to start using it again. That's why Beef Products is reopening one of its shuttered plants -- demand is going up.

According to the Wall Street Journal, production of pink slime has doubled since hitting rock bottom in 2012.

As to who's using it now, that's a mystery. McDonald's said in May that it still wasn't using pink slime. In fact, I couldn't find a single company that's admitted using it again.

But obviously someone is. Otherwise production of pink slime wouldn't be up 100%.

So I'm with you, Laura -- I want to know who's using it.

At this point, though, it looks like nobody's fessing up.

If you have a consumer question, email me at asklaz@latimes.com or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

12:30 p.m. -- This post has been updated with reaction from the meat industry.

This post was originally published at 10:45 a.m.

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