NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - Local school cafeterias are getting a choice when it comes to the meat filler known as pink slime.
The USDA said it will offer ground beef that has not been treated with ammonium hydroxide to the National School Lunch Program in the fall.
A representative with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said beef that has not been treated will cost three percent more.
In a statement on it's website, the USDA said, "[the] USDA only purchases products for the school lunch program that are safe, nutritious and affordable, including all products containing Lean Finely Textured Beef."
Lean Finely Textured Beef or LFTB is what the USDA prefers to call what others are calling pink slime.
"Interestingly enough the USDA, which declares meat safe, is the same government agency charged with promoting meat to the public. There's a conflict of interest there," said Dan Mathews, Senior Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
PETA advocates a vegan lifestyle, which does not include consumption of animal products. Mathews told WAVY.com he recognizes not everyone chooses that lifestyle, but he worries about the meat supply in the schools and elsewhere.
"Although pink slime is in the news now, there is fecal matter contaminating much of the food supply," said Mathews.
Ammonium hydroxide is used, in part, to kill any bacteria.
A spokespersons for Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Norfolk schools said they'll look into any options.
A Newport News Schools spokesperson said they're waiting for more research on the issue and that their order is already in for next school year.
But, Hampton schools said they've already decided to opt out of the Lean Finely Textured Beef.
The USDA said all food purchased for the National School Lunch Program meets stringent food safety standards.
"There's a lot of things that have been around that we've been consuming for a long time, but we learn about the ill effects of some of these things and we stop it," said Mathews.
A Virginia Department of Agriculture spokesperson said beef that has not been treated with ammonium hydroxide will become the default option for the schools, but the schools will be able to choose to keep the treated beef if they want.
WAVY.com is still waiting to hear back from Suffolk and Portsmouth schools.
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