beef burger patty

After switching to burgers made with 100 percent beef in the cafeteria, schools in Virginia have backtracked. The decision was made to replace the beef burgers with patties containing 26 different additives. The school system cited complaints over appearance and taste of the all-beef burgers.

During the 2011-2012 school year, the group Real Food for Kids (RFFK) worked hard to ensure that public schools in Fairfax County served all-beef burgers.

“We worked so hard, and we talk a lot about this burger and how we changed it,” JoAnne Hammermaster, co-founder and president of RFFK, told the Washington Post.

That hard work paid off, and this fall many school had 100 percent beef burgers on the menu, instead of the standard pre-prepared patties sourced from manufacturers that contain over two dozen different additives. But then the old version made its way back onto the menu.

The change is said to have come about after students noticed that “the old patties appeared to be pink in the middle.” School board member Ryan McElveen says likely because “the all-beef patties did not have a caramel coloring additive,” according to the Washington Post.

While the switch could be chocked up to economics, Fairfax schools spokesman John Torre said that price did not play into the decision. All-beef burgers cost 30 cents per patty, while the new Don Lee Farms burgers with additives cost 32 cents per patty. According to nutritional information, the new patties do in fact contain caramel coloring as well as a variety of other additives. They can also last up to 12 months in a freezer.

The decision to use 100 percent beef patties came in spring 2012 just after the school system announced that the burgers the children were eating contained “pink slime.” McElveen is concerned that these new burgers with additives aren’t any better. “While FCPS is claiming that this does not have pink slime, it’s worrisome,” McElveen said. “What we’re serving is still safe but by no means ideal.”

Sadly, Virginia and the schools in Fairfax are not alone. A recent Pew study shows that school food authorities haven’t been able to implement the new USDA school meal standards without running into obstacles. As stated in the report, “As school food authorities,* or SFAs, work to implement the new meal standards, they may face challenges,including limitations in existing kitchen equipment and infrastructure, and in the training and skills of food service staff.”
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