Friday, March 30, 2012

"Pink Slime" - Lean Finely Textured Beef

There has been a lot of recent media coverage of a beef product referred to as "pink slime." Below is a little more information.

This product is known by a few different names within the beef industry including partially defatted beef fatty tissue and lean finely textured beef (LFTB). The product is a high-protein, low-fat beef made from trim (the meat and fat leftover from trimming other beef cuts - steak, roasts, etc). The trim, which might also contain some connective tissue, is spun in a centrifuge and protein is separated out. The product has been approved for use in ground beef products since the early 1990s. Beef containing LFTB must meet federal food safety requirements and undergo food safety inspections. LFTB was developed as a way to reduce waste within the beef industry (and its production/sale subsidizes the cost of ground beef products).

According to the School Nutrition Association (a national, nonprofit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country). This product has also been used in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) since the 1990s as well (The maximum allowable percentage of LFTB that may be formulated into single servings of the ground beef purchased for the NSLP is 15 percent, which is similar to the composition found in many commercially available ground beef products). Of the ground beef purchased by USDA in 2011 for the NSLP, LFTB comprised approximately 6.5 percent of the total volume.

Pink slime/LFTB precursor, beef trim, is edible on its own, and has been linked to higher concentrations of E. coli O157 than primal cuts/ground beef. Because of this, the beef industry treats it with compounds to change the pH of the spun down beef to reduce pathogen levels . Two processes are common - organic acids (lactic, citric, acetic) or the more controversial ammonium hydroxide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) considers ammonium hydroxide as “generally recognized as safe”(see  In 2005, the USDA limited the amount of ammonia-treated Lean Beef Trimmings in a serving of ground beef to 15 percent. The prime control measures for pathogens in ground beef don't change with the addition of LFTB - temperature control (cooking especially, and refrigeration of raw product) as well as reducing cross-contamination risks. The safe end-point temperature for beef products containing LFTB is no different than those without it (160F for instant kill, or 155F for 15 seconds).

Manufacturers are not required to list LFTB as an ingredient currently - it is estimated that about 70% of commercially available ground beef contains some LFTB. In response to recent requests, USDA announced last week that they will create a system that will allow for schools/districts to choose beef with or without LFTB. Some fast food outlets, like McDonalds, have recently announced that they do not use ammonium hydroxide treated LFTB.

Links of interest:
Recent coverage that has raised this issue:

Story with McDonald's statement:

USDA's choice statement:

2009 NY Times article on this issue:

Iowa State paper describing protein content of LFTB:

Benjamin Chapman, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor,
Food Safety Specialist Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences
North Carolina State University, NC Cooperative Extension

Thursday, March 29, 2012

2012 CEFS Field Day

2012 CEFS Field Day

May 3, 2012
Center for Environmental Farming Systems
201 Stevens Mill Road
Goldsboro, N.C.

12:30 p.m. - Registration
1:00 p.m. - Field Day begins: Farm tours, poster sessions, equipment demonstrations, presentations on key research in the various farm units
5:30 p.m. - Local foods dinner

If you have a disability or desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact the N.C. Agricultural Research Service at 919.515.2717 during business hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at least two weeks before the event to request accommodations.

To learn more about the field day and register online, please visit:
Please Register Early Space is Limited For information contact Lisa Forehand, 919.513.0954 or Friends of CEFS fundraising efforts operate under the auspices of the N.C. Agricultural Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization (tax ID: 56-6049304).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Buzz on Bees

We’ve had several reports of bee swarms.   A lot of people panic when they see the bees.  They assume “swarm” means "attack" or that these are “killer bees” (we do not have the Africanized, aka “killer”, honey bees in NC).  Swarms are simply nature’s way of forming new colonies.  It happens with wild honey bee colonies and can happen with maintained honey bee colonies probably more with novice beekeepers if they are not paying close attention to their hives.  This is different from swarms that occur with disruptions of the hive or like incidences we had last summer when bees escaped from hives being transported on trucks.  In two Wake Co. area incidents last year, bees covered a Wake County Sheriff Deputy's patrol car on US-64 ( and on a nice Sunday in June, busy bees escaped from hives that were being transported near I-95 in Kenly and took up residence on the canopy over some gas pumps at a truck stop (

Things work a little different with bees compared to humans.  Unlike when your parents encouraged you to leave (or simply waited for you to go away to school and then they changed all of the locks), the current queen bee is the one who leaves with about half or more of the hive occupants.  They land on a tree or another vertical surface (preferably) and hang out while some scout bees going real estate hunting.  Obviously, it’s not easy to find the ideal home for tens-of-thousands of bees. They want an area protected from the weather and (hopefully) predators and a good neighborhood with plenty of food resources (flowering plants).  It can take hours or even days for them to find the ideal spot.  Meanwhile, you find this massive glob of bees clinging to a branch or other surfaces, which are largely in a quiescent (and therefore mostly non-defensive) state.

Understandably, people that are truly allergic to bee/wasp stings will be most concerned. These bee swarms are pretty docile because they’re not defending a nest.  They’re preoccupied with finding new digs.  Of course, this doesn’t mean you can start smacking at them either, but I’ve been on swarm calls with people that handle bees routinely and they've touch the swarm (of course, this is something we caveat with "don't try this at home"!)   You can see a picture of our former colleague Steve Bambara from when we responded to a swarm outside the EMS station located on Varsity Drive near the McKimmon Center.  (

The bees typically leave in a few hours, so if people can "bee patient", the swarm will head off to their new home.  We strongly suggest avoiding spraying them with a pesticide ("green" or not) or even soapy water which will still kill them.  Blasting them with water as an alternative to using chemicals may also produce fatal results if the queen is injured or killed.  Even with schools and childcare facilities and other public places where there's always a lot of genuine concern about the consequences of stings, if it's possible to simply rope off the area and keep everyone away, it will produce positive results as a learning experience for the kids (and others) and another opportunity to protect a wild bee colony.  The duration of the swarm is definitely another one of those "it depends" situations that can actually end up with the swarm staying for a day or two (weather influences their movement).  On some occasions they may actually start producing wax comb in that area and take up permanent residence.   Those are times when it's definitely best to have people contact a local beekeeper to remove the swarm.  If you don't know any beekeepers, refer callers to:

Michael Waldvogel, PhD
Extension Assoc. Professor & Specialist, Structural & Industrial Pests
North Carolina State University
Dept. of Entomology, Box 7613, 100 Derieux Place
Raleigh, NC USA 27695-7613

More Buzz About Pests

The combination of a continued warming trend (it's called "spring"), moderate rainfall (in some areas) and the gradually lengthening day is leading to more mosquito activity.  Although many people (except those in Durham) spent the weekend glued to the TV watching the basketball tournament, it was also a good time to engage in some "Tip and Toss".  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, our most common mosquito (the Asian tiger mosquito) takes advantage of water-filled objects and now is a good time to correct problems before you start hearing that familiar buzz of mosquitoes in your ear when you're sitting outdoors in the evening.

-  Empty or (preferably) get rid of those objects that collect water - old cans, tires, and trash cans missing their lids. 
- Put fresh water in bird baths and pet water bowls
- Remove debris from your gutters and make sure water runs freely through through them. And make sure rainwater doesn't just splash and pool at the at downspout.
- If you're going to collect rainwater to save for watering your gardens, make sure you have a screen over the top to keep out debris and mosquitoes that are hunting for a good playing to lay eggs.
- Clean out drainage ditches in front of your property so that they don't impound water and let it stagnate.

You can find these details and more information on our website:

Michael Waldvogel, PhD
Extension Assoc. Professor & Specialist, Structural & Industrial Pests
North Carolina State University
Dept. of Entomology, Box 7613, 100 Derieux Place
Raleigh, NC USA 27695-7613

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Produce Lady - March Newsletter

Spring is in the air! We say goodbye to winter and give a warm welcome to spring – and all of its wonderful seasonal produce – this month. Soon strawberries will paint N.C. fields red, peppers will peek out from farmers market stalls and luscious greens will canvas the ground. Can you tell we’re eager? Adding to the excitement, National Agriculture Day is March 13, 2012. Recognize and celebrate the contributions made by our farmers this month; we couldn’t eat without them.
View the entire E-Newsletter HERE!!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Radon Test Kits Available

There are now a very limited number of FREE radon test kits available.  In order to obtain a kit, you must come in person to the Cooperative Extension office (90 S. Main Street, 3rd floor) to pick one up.  Due to the limited amount available, only 1 kit per household is allowed.  For more information, either come by the office or you may call 336-372-5597.