Pink Slime Neither Pink Nor Slimey

Please call it “lean finely textured beef.”

BPI’s signature product, commonly mixed into ground beef, is made from beef chunks, including trimmings, and exposed to bursts of ammonium hydroxide to kill E. coli bacteria and other contaminants.

A microbiologist formerly with the U.S. Department of Agriculture is credited with having coined the term “pink slime.”

After ABC was sued for 5.7 BILLION DOLLARS by Beef Products, Inc. for dysphemizing their “lean finely textured beef” into “pink slime,” the Walt Disney Company has paid $177 million to settle the case. Here is a good paragraph from a 2012 Slate article that clarifies the distinction somewhat, but I’d still argue that “trimmings paste” isn’t much better:

Leaving aside the question of what ABC really knew, it does seem clear that the network’s branding blitz did a lot to promote the panic. The word slime suggests bacterial contamination; it even has a meaning in the lab, referring to a subset of gooey polysaccharides secreted by many microorganisms. The pink part only makes the phrase sound more fleshy and disgusting—like human genitals painted with a film of protozoa. But the labels tell a story that doesn’t match the facts. In truth, the trimmings paste is not particularly unhealthy. Consumer watchdog groups seem to agree that ammoniated, processed beef is no more unsanitary or unappetizing than the other minced and remixed concoctions that emerge from the nation’s meat factories. (It might even be the better choice.) Even Jim Avila of ABC News has conceded, “We’ve never said ‘pink slime’ is unsafe.”

The lesson here is if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, you should still call it “a subfamily of mostly aquatic waterfowl in the Anatidae family, found in both fresh and seawater.”