The Skinny on Pink Slime: How Does It Taste And How Bad For You Is Ammonium Hydroxide?

this is not what it says it is
this is not what it says it is (Photo credit: rocketlass)

So, pink slime is in the news.  It’s been around for quite a while.  But now the fast food companies are turning up their nose at it, so our government has bought it up to feed our children.

First, how does ammonium hydroxide in meat taste?  Different.  Less peppery.  It can currently be injected into your steak, and it makes a little difference in the taste.  But it has less sodium, so look for ammonium hydroxide to be the additive of fine steaks everywhere.  It preserves the juiciness without compromising too much on flavor and drops the steak into the “low sodium” category.

For the paleo diet folks out there, there’s research that ammonium hydroxide can tenderize tough buffalo meat.  So watch out for the new “filets of buffalo.”

It can also make three-week old meat taste much better.  Yet ANOTHER reason to buy local.

Ok, your meat tastes ok.  Will it make my kid grow three heads?  No idea.  Why?  No human studies.  What?  That’s right.  It’s ammonia water without the water.  It gets a pass as presumed safe.

So, can you kill a rat with ammonium hydroxide?  Yes.  You can kill a human with ammonium hydroxide.  Here’s a link to the side effects from ammonium hydroxide poisoning.    Here’s a link to the pesticide version.  Here’s a link to the complete toxicity of the compound.

BEFORE you start calling your representatives, here is what they will say.  There is so much less ammonium hydroxide in the meat that there is no chance your child will get poisoned.  It’s the “dose makes the poison” argument.  If they are truly patronizing, they will compare ammonium hydroxide to water.  A glass is good for you, but you can drown in it.

But ammonium hydroxide isn’t water.  It isn’t something that your body needs in every cell.  It is something that your body wants to get rid of, and it does get rid of its own ammonia every day.  It becomes urea, which becomes urine.

So, in very low daily doses, ammonium hydroxide will put a slight, VERY slight, extra burden on the kidneys.  For the vast majority of children this isn’t a problem.  But for those already at risk, say diabetics, this could be an issue after say – a lifetime of ongoing use.

We also know that an overabundance of ammonium hydroxide in the body can cause burns.  This is one of the mechanisms of heliobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes stomach ulcersIt produces ammonium hydroxide which burns the stomach.  In certain susceptible individuals it is reasonable to assume additional food ammonium hydroxide could contribute to ulcers.

So, I cannot say that ammonium hydroxide is a bad thing in meat.  I can say that no one should be claiming it’s been proven to be a good thing.




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