Legitimate Beef?

Those defending ‘pink slime’ may have a point

The last several months have seen an uprising against an additive the U.S. meat industry calls lean finely textured beef (LFTB). But anyone who watches the nightly news may be more familiar with the name that ignited a food safety firestorm: pink slime.

The term was coined by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein in a 2002 email,1 but it wasn’t until celebrity chef Jamie Oliver put the product in front of a national audience on his "Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution" TV show that the public started calling for elimination of its use.

And while grocery stores and fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell heeded the clamor and pulled LFTB from their products, facts are emerging that makes the issue appear to be less about safety and more about aesthetics.

The government-approved practice that has been used for more than a decade starts with slaughterhouse trimmings that have high fat content. Those trimmings are heated in a centrifuge and spun to remove fat, at which point the remaining meat is treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella.2

Beef Products Inc. (BPI), which came up with the procedure, samples each box of LFTB and sends it to a third-party laboratory to verify its safety. Only when it’s confirmed that the sample meets safety specifications is the associated box of LFTB allowed to be shipped and subsequently mixed with regular ground beef.3

When the initial furor died down, the focus shifted to the facts about the product’s safety and studies such as one conducted last fall by Courtney Moon, a student at the University of Arkansas. Her research project revealed that ground beef mixtures containing as much as 20% LFTB reduced spoilage, increased tenderness and gave the product a fresher color.4

"I understand the ‘yuck factor’ when people use a term like ‘pink slime’ to describe lean beef trim," said Jason Apple, a meat science professor who, along with his laboratory staff, supervised the study. "But I think it is a very good use of beef that otherwise would go into pet food or be thrown away. It is really all just beef."5

Beyond that, BPI has pointed out that ammonium hydroxide is used to process a variety of other foods—from cheese to chocolate.6 It also appears on the USDA’s list of ingredients approved for the production of meat, poultry and egg products, with a note under labeling requirements that says: "none under the accepted conditions of use."7

James Marsden, professor of food safety and security at Kansas State University, got to the crux of the matter when he said: "I think the criticism of BPI’s products is based on quality perceptions, not food safety. On the one hand, consumers demand safe foods and are right to do so; they also need to recognize that the production of safe foods requires processing interventions."8

Marsden’s comments also touch on a quality-related area that most certainly has a place in the discussion regarding LFTB: the transparency—or lack thereof—of the food industry.

As mentioned earlier, the fact that ammonium hydroxide hasn’t been included on the list of ingredients for the food products on which it’s used is an action sanctioned by the USDA. But with the movement in recent years toward organic offerings and an increased emphasis on being able to trace food from farm to fork, some experts say this lie of omission isn’t likely to go unpunished much longer.

"For some people, cost is the only factor," said Neil Hamilton, director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University in Des Moines, IA. "We also learned from the beef additive controversy there are other values in food: information and choice. We heard people saying they did not know the additive was there, and they wanted to know so they could choose for themselves whether to buy it."9

—Brett Krzykowski, assistant editor


  1. Michael Moss, "Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned," New York Times, Dec. 30, 2009.
  2. PolitiFact Georgia, "Don’t Call It Pink Slime, Georgia Official Says," www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2012/apr/10/gary-black/dont-call-it-pink-slime-georgia-official-says, April 10, 2012.
  3. Phyllis Entis, "What’s Wrong With Pink Slime?" Food Safety News, www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/03/whats-wrong-with-pink-slime, March 12, 2012.
  4. University of Arkansas, "Study Shows ‘Lean Finely Textured Beef’ Improves Burger Quality," http://newswire.uark.edu/article.aspx?id=17999, March 21, 2012.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Beef Products Inc., "Ammonium Hydroxide," http://beefproducts.com/ammonium_hydroxide.php.
  7. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, "Safe and Suitable Ingredients Used in the Production of Meat, Poultry and Egg Products," www.fsis.usda.gov/oppde/rdad/fsisdirectives/7120.1rev2.pdf, April 12, 2010.
  8. Entis, "What’s Wrong With Pink Slime?" see reference 3.
  9. Daniel P. Finney, "More Consumers Asking for Details About Their Food," Des Moines Register, April 9, 2012.


Firms Can Better Handle Market Uncertainty

Organization supply chains are now better able to handle market uncertainty, according to a recent study on global supply chains by Capgemini, a consulting, technology and outsourcing firm.

The study also says ongoing uncertainty about the global economy and the eurozone crisis are having a significant impact on supply chain strategies at every level.

Respondents to the survey also cited market volatility (52%) and the economic downturn (39%) as the biggest business challenges they face. Only 17% of respondents said they were optimistic about this year’s outlook on the economy.

The survey suggests, however, that organizations will be better able to handle market uncertainty than during the previous economic slowdown of 2008-2009: 52% of respondents indicated they are now better prepared for a more volatile environment.

For more details from the survey, visit www.capgemini.com/insights-and-resources/by-publication/the-2012-global-supply-chain-agenda.


Study: Organization Size
Can Affect How It Innovates

A new report by Forbes suggests smaller firms can’t always adequately support innovation, but bigger companies often stifle it with command-and-control bureaucracies.

Because the pursuit of new products or services requires resources and hands-on engagement with the business, there’s an optimal size for an organization to succeed in innovation, according to the study, "Nurturing Europe’s Spirit of Enterprise: How Entrepreneurial Executives Mobilize Organizations to Innovate."

Organizations with 100 to 249 employees were best at generating innovative ideas, the report says, and those with revenues between $5 million and $100 million were best at executing them.

To download a copy of the 20-page report, visit www.forbes.com/forbesinsights/europe_entrepreneurs/index.html.


Joyful Job: Software Quality
Engineers Ranked As Happiest

The online jobs site Careerbliss.com has ranked the software quality engineer profession as the "happiest job" in the United States, followed by executive chefs, property managers, bank tellers and warehouse managers.

Software quality assurance engineers said they are more than satisfied with the people they work with and the companies they work for. They’re also fairly content with their daily tasks and bosses, said Matt Miller, chief technology officer at CareerBliss.

The rankings are based on analysis from more than 100,400 employee-generated reviews between February 2011 and January 2012. Employees were asked to rate 10 factors that affect workplace happiness, including: relationship with your boss and coworkers, work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities; company culture; company reputation, daily tasks and control over your daily work.

Systems engineers were tied as the ninth-happiest profession along with process engineers. Software engineers were ranked 15th.


ASQ News

TRAINING PARTNERSHIP FORMED ASQ’s 17 certifications and its complete training portfolio are now included in the Manufacturing Institute’s Manufacturing Skills Certification System. ASQ joins 14 other organizations that offer specialized training and certifications by partnering with the Manufacturing Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research, education, workforce and services group. For more details, visit www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/education-workforce/skills-certification-system/certifications/certifications.aspx.

CANADA QUALITY SUMMIT ASQ Canada’s Saskatchewan Section will host the Canada Quality Summit and Mining Gala June 7-9 in Saskatoon. Scheduled speakers include Peter Merrill, president of Quest Management Systems, an innovation consultancy, and Chuck Edwards, president of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum. For more details, email info@asqsask.org.

SEARCHING AND SORTING ASQ’s Quality Information Center now employs a staff librarian to help answer research requests and search for information from ASQ journals, conference proceedings, case studies and ASQ Quality Press publications. With an ASQ membership, you can request these free internal information searches and purchase articles at reduced rates. For more details or to submit a request, visit http://asq.org/knowledge-center/ask-a-librarian-index.

WEBSITE REDESIGNED The ASQ Quality Press online store has been redesigned to help visitors find books and standards more easily. ASQ members get 40% discounts on ASQ Quality Press books and 20% discounts on many standards. Visit the site at www.asq.org/quality-press.

HEAR THEIR VOICES ASQ’s stable of bloggers reacting to and writing about quality topics and trends has grown to 29. Join the discussion, check out what they have to say and read ASQ CEO Paul Borawski’s own monthly blog at http://asq.org/voice-of-quality.

QUALITY MEETING IN INDIA The ASQ Delhi, India, local member community held its first meeting March 16 at ITM University in Gurgaon, Haryana, India. Sponsored by the Tata Group, one of the largest business groups in India, the event also marked the inauguration of the 57-member ASQ student chapter at ITM University.

DIVISION EVENT IN OCTOBER ASQ’s Energy and Environmental Division will host its 39th training and education conference Oct. 14-17 in Tampa, FL. Visit http://asq.org/ee/interaction/39th_eeetc.htm.

SECOND STEM EVENT ASQ’s Education Division and the University of Wisconsin-Stout are once again co-sponsoring a conference focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The conference will take place July 16-17 on UW-Stout’s campus in Menomonie. The conference will focus on preparing high school students for STEM college majors, inspiring college students to pursue STEM majors, and encouraging the collaboration between industry and STEM education for more effective co-op experiences. Visit http://asq.org/conferences/stem-agenda/index.html.

DOUBLE BUCKS THIS MONTH For each member you refer this month, you will receive 10 ASQ bucks instead of five. Use this currency toward the purchase of books, standards, certifications, training, conferences or your own membership renewal. Visit http://asq.org/refer for more details.

Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Mark Johnson.

RESIDENCE: Maitland, FL, and Valbonne, France.

EDUCATION: Doctorate in industrial and management engineering from the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

CURRENT JOB: Statistics professor at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: Johnson credits Harry Wadsworth with getting him involved in international statistical standards after Wadsworth invited him to an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) technical committee (TC) 69 meeting in Berlin in November 1989. The meeting hooked Johnson, and since then he has attended these international conferences.

PREVIOUS QUALITY EXPERIENCE: Staff member of the statistics group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, NM, and professor of industrial and systems engineering at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: Chair of ISO TC 69 subcommittee (SC) 1 and lead U.S. delegate for SC1, the subcommittee on terminology and symbols for TC 69 governing applications of statistical methods. Associate editor of Technometrics and the Journal of Quality Technology. Also involved in technical advisory group (TAG) 69, Accredited Standards Committee Z1-Statistics and ASQ’s Statistics Division.

OTHER ACTIVITIES: In 1996, Johnson was contracted as a statistics expert for a professional team reviewing proprietary hurricane catastrophe models for the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology. The commission and professional team wrote technical standards (following the ISO 9000 approach) that computer catastrophe models must meet to be approved for use in residential insurance-rate filings in Florida. The commission appointed Johnson as team leader, and he has led on-site audits of the modeling companies.

PUBLISHED WORKS: Multivariate Statistical Simulation (Wiley, 1987) and about 60 journal articles.

RECENT HONORS: He is a fellow of the American Statistical Association, an elected member of the International Statistical Institute and a chartered statistician of the Royal Statistical Society.

PERSONAL: Wife, Michèle Boulanger; two adult children, Jaimie and Brent.

OTHER ACTIVITIES: Tennis, fishing, travel and reading Scandinavian murder mysteries.

QUALITY QUOTE: International statistical standards is an area that needs increased involvement from U.S. statistical experts and greater support from U.S. corporations, agencies and universities that benefit from these standards. Statistical experts should consider applying to ASQ to become a member of the U.S. TAG to ISO TC 69.


Quick Poll Results

Each month at www.qualityprogress.com, visitors can take an informal survey, and we post the results.

Here are the numbers from a recent Quick Poll:

"What’s the best way to build a successful baseball team?"

  • Use analytics to find hidden gems. 57.5%
  • Count on development of drafted players. 30%
  • Throw money at high-priced free agents. 12%

Visit www.qualityprogress.com for the most recent poll question:

"When ISO 9001 is revised, what clause do you think will affect your organization the most?"

  • Leadership.
  • Operation.
  • Planning.
  • Support.

Go with the flow

This month, listen to an audio interview with Richard J. Schonberger, author of the cover article "Tangled Mess," discussing how to ease your production flow.


4 in 1: Specialized Miniforums Set

To give conference-goers more customized information and learning opportunities, four miniconferences, sponsored by different ASQ divisions, will take place concurrently with the World Conference on Quality and Improvement (WCQI), scheduled May 21-23 in Anaheim, CA. The miniconferences include:

  1. The Quality in Sustainability Conference will focus on social responsibility, applying sustainable quality tools and incorporating sustainability in design and construction, as well as organizational excellence.
  2. The Institute for Continual Quality Improvement Conference, sponsored by ASQ’s Quality Management and Statistics Divisions, will feature workshops and presentations focused on areas such as management principles, strategies and processes for improving quality, and risk management.
  3. The Quality Institute for Healthcare Conference, sponsored by ASQ’s Healthcare Division, will feature sessions and presentations related to efficiency, cost and waste reduction, patient satisfaction and safety, care coordination and sustaining a quality culture.
  4. The Institute for Software Excellence Conference, sponsored by ASQ’s Software Division, will offer sessions about applying quality principles to software, software quality management principles, software process improvement, and managing software safety and security.

One registration fee covers admission for all conferences, including WCQI.

For more on WCQI activities and links to each miniconference, visit http://wcqi.asq.org/index.html.

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