The Reason Meat Is Often Doused With Ammonia

You've probably heard plenty of wild rumors and conspiracies online about GMOs, additives, and other sorts of chemicals that corporations are putting in your food. While a good chunk of these claims is nothing more than your standard Internet gossip, the idea that your food is doused in certain chemicals isn't exactly all that untrue. 

McDonald's, for many years, has been accused of serving "pink slime" to its customers. This "pink slime," per NBC News, refers to "ammonia-treated lean beef trimmings," or chicken and beef that has been mechanically removed from the bone and ground into a slime-like substance used to make chicken nuggets and burgers. While McDonald's has gone on record stating they never use "pink slime" in their products, the idea that the "slime" even exists is something that concerns many people. After all, isn't ammonia the same stuff you find in cleaning solutions?

The discussion of ammonia-treated beef trimmings began in 2012 (via ABC News), with some calling the addition of these beef trimmings an act of economic fraud, calling it a cheap, unappetizing, and industrial substitute for real meat. Many people, obviously outraged at the idea of eating industrialized beef goo that's been treated with cleaning chemicals, demanded that action be taken against what they saw as another example of corporations trying to cut corners at the cost of consumer health.

But just how dangerous is "pink slime?" Is the addition of ammonia to meat really as safe as authorities might claim otherwise?

Ammonia can kills germs in your meat

If you have a canister of ammonia-based cleaning spray under your kitchen cabinet, you probably know that ammonia helps to kill germs. According to Reuters, the food industry uses ammonia to hose down meat or meat by-products to kill germs that may be hiding in the meat. 

Reuters reports that ammonia isn't just found in beef. It's found in everything from cheese to baked goods. In fact, the U.S. government backed the use of the cleaning product to be utilized in the food industry over 40 years ago. Although many, from the average person to entire school districts, demanded the removal of ammonia-treated beef from the menu, some meat producers argued that the people were simply disgusted at the idea of eating the meat rather than any genuine concerns about health.

So is "pink slime" bad for you? While Live Science admits that the beef is undeniably low-grade meat, the introduction of ammonia isn't as bad as you may think. Ammonia is produced naturally by the body, such as in urine, and your body can easily remove it as a waste product. It's only when the beef trimmings are processed incorrectly that there is an actual health hazard.

Even if ammonia is used to kill germs and prevent sickness, no one would blame you for wanting to stick to real meat rather than any beef trimmings or slime in the future.