What’s really in my hamburger?

Ever bitten into a McDonald’s Big Mac and wondered, “What’s in the special sauce that makes it so special?”  Well it might not be the special sauce you should be concerning yourself with but that ‘all beef’ pattie.

Hamburger. Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:McD-Big-Mac.jpg Licensed under Wikimedia Commons.

On an episode of Jamie Oliver’s food revolution, Jamie Oliver blew the lid off a practice in the food industry which has caused a stir worldwide and has certainly got peoples’ stomachs churning.  ‘Pink slime’ or ‘soylent pink’ is a processed scrap beef product which was originally used in pet food and cooking oil but has somehow gained approval for human consumption by agencies such as the USDA.  The beef offcuts, which butchers usually pay good money to have removed from contaminating their workspace are processed in large centrifuges with heat to separate the fat from the meat.  The scrap beef is then exposed to ammonium hydroxide or citric acid to kill the high load of bacteria usually present in this waste product.  It is now considered ‘safe’ for consumption and can be used as filler up to 25% to pad out a meat product.  Statistics from the USA suggest up to 70% of the beef in America includes some proportion of this ammonia treated filler.   The USDA has officially declared ammonium hydroxide “generally recognised as safe” and that any manufacturer using it for their meat treatment does not legally have to mention it on their food labels.

To be fair, McDonalds has stated they discontinued the use of ‘select lean beef trimmings’ (Industries terminology for pink slime) in 2011, however who else still uses it, which products and at what proportion?  This has also got me thinking, what other chemical additives are in the foods I eat?  What is food dye E124 that is in my apple juice? Why is sodium aluminosilicate (E554) used? Does my flour really need to be treated with azodicarbonamide (E927) or potassium bromate (E924), and what the heck is in a chicken nugget, because I highly doubt it’s actually chicken!

Should I really be lying awake at night stressing about these questions or should I live in ignorant bliss? Surely these products have gone through stringent testing before they end up in my stomach.. Right?..  I will admit, this article has genuinely opened my eyes to the degree of processing our foods undergo these days and has made me seriously reassess what food I put into my body.  Could these additives be contributing to increased cancer rates? Or am I being paranoid?

Ground beef. Source http://www.cjme.com/story/certain-brands-ground-beef-under-recall-possible-ecoli/75492 Licensed under public domain.


“You tell everybody. Listen to me, Hatcher. You’ve gotta tell them! Soylent Green is people! We’ve gotta stop them somehow!” –  Charlton Heston, Soylent Green (1973)











6 Responses to “What’s really in my hamburger?”

  1. pavellar says:

    The only thing that really got me thinking was the amonium hidroxide, but I would like to know the amount that got in my hamburger. The rest, I prefer no to know how my sausage was made, although, if I want beef, I want beef, not horse..

  2. Jesse Bodle says:

    Hey guys thanks for the comments!

    Max; I agree classic movie! Ahead of its time! I remember we studied it in year 10 or 11 (many years ago) was a movie I actually didn’t mind watching over and over again. I also agree, roo is a much better option (if it’s a good cut) but I strongly feel it should be clearly labelled.

    Cameron; I must admit I have thought on a number of occasions about becoming vegetarian, my father is one. I am passionate about animal rights and strongly against any animal cruelty. I think the prospect that the animal I eat has suffered in any way really bothers me. Having said that I do still eat meat and enjoy it. I would find it very difficult to give it up but maybe someday

    Setiawan; I agree, Big Macs are still one of my guilty pleasures 🙂

    Juanuro; Agree, it is scary. It would be so difficult to scrutinize every little bit of food you eat, checking the labels and researching the additives. Even after that who knows if we are given all the info?!

  3. juanur0 says:

    I think this is the problem of all processed food: preservers, colorants, everything is toxic… nice post but scary 😀

  4. setiawan says:

    I agree with Cameron about how vegetarian is becoming a very tempting option. But I still like my Mcdonald’s burger and whenever I buy them, I try not to think of what stuff they put in the patties. After all you only get to live once.

  5. Cameron P says:

    Reading things like this makes me feel even more smug about being a vegetarian.

    @Max, on the horse meat scandal – I had similar thoughts when I first heard about it. I don’t understand omnivores who are comfortable eating cow or pig but not horse. On the other hand: the horse meat was misrepresented as being something else, and the horses were obtained illegally and subjected to terrible conditions which is how the horse meat could be sold so cheaply.

  6. Max Lechte says:

    Great movie.

    “Why, in my day, you could buy meat anywhere! Eggs they had, real butter! Fresh lettuce in the stores.”

    Brings to mind the controversy with horse being found in burgers. I dunno, maybe horse is better for you or more delicious? Probably should let people know at least!
    Also I can’t find an article but I heard that some company got in trouble for putting Kangaroo in their burger meat. For me, putting kangaroo meat in burgers sounds much more sustainable / healthier than beef anyway!

    That pink slime stuff sounds pretty gross though. I’ll definitely be wary next time I get a cheap burger.

    Hopefully no one’s put any people in burgers yet though.