There is a surprising product you probably are eating and you do not know it. It is called pink slime.
The material is made up of scraps of specially treated meat to add as filler for ground beef. These types of scraps were once used only in dog food and cooking oil. Now these pieces are sprayed with ammonia to make them safe enough to eat before they are added to most ground beef.
A number of fast-food restaurants made headlines by announcing they would stop using the filler. Although, the substance is all across the food supply, and it now has Gerald Zirnstein grinding his own hamburgers. The former USDA scientist, now whistle blower, knows that 70 percent of the ground beef we buy in supermarkets contains pink slime. He calls it economic fraud.
"It's not fresh ground beef, it is a substitute, it's a cheap substitute being added in," Zirnstein said.
Zirnstein first coined the term pink slime in a memo. He and his fellow USDA scientist Carl Custer both warned against using what the industry calls lean finely textured beef. However, their government bosses overruled them.
The process starts with gathered waste trimmings. They are simmered at low heat, to ensure the muscle and fat can be separated. Next, they are put in a centrifuge and spun to finish separation. The mixture is sent through pipes where it is sprayed by bacteria-killing ammonia. Later, it is compressed into bricks, flash frozen for shipment and the grocery store adds it to most of its ground beef.
However, there is still a kicker, pink slime does not have to appear on the label because USDA officials with links to the beef industry labeled pink slime as Meat.
"The under secretary said, it's pink, therefore it's Meat," Custer said.
Former undersecretary of agriculture Joanne Smith made that decision. It is a call that led to hundreds of millions of dollars for Beef Products Inc—the makers of pink slime.
Smith was appointed to BPI's board of directors after she stepped down from USDA. She made at least $1.2 million over 17 years. Smith did not return any of ABC's calls for comment. BPI said it had nothing to do with her appointment and the USDA says while legal then, she could have immediately joined that board under current ethics rules.