Last year, the USDA gave schools the option of ordering ground beef with or without “pink slime” for school menus.

What is “pink slime?” It’s the media name given to lean, finely textured beef, and it’s a low-cost filler for ground beef made of beef trimmings that used to be used mainly for pet food. Before being added to the ground beef, it’s treated with ammonia to deter e. coli bacteria and salmonella.

Public outcry prompted the USDA to give schools a choice about serving it to their students, and it also caused McDonald’s to stop using the additive and several grocery chains to stop selling beef with the additive.

In the fall of 2012 only three states — Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota — ordered beef with added “pink slime” from the USDA for their school menus. Politico is reporting that this year, four more states put in orders for the controversial beef. Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas added “pink slime” back on the menu this year due to tight budgets.

Ironically, one possible reason for the increase in orders is the new school lunch nutrition standards. The requirement of additional fruits, vegetables and whole grains make the lunches more expensive to produce. Schools may be adding the lean finely textured beef, which the USDA says is safe, back on the menu to offset the cost of the new, healthier standards.

It’s disappointing to see states adding “pink slime” back on the menu. Even without the ammonia-treated ingredient, though, school lunches aren’t what many of us would consider ideal. Packing your children’s lunch, or having older kids back their own, is the best way of making sure that what goes into your child at lunchtime is something you approve of.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Some schools adding 'pink slime' back to the menu
More than twice as many states put in orders with the USDA this year for ground beef that may contain the controversial lean finely textured beef.