'Pink slime' in burgers? McDonald's hires former MythBuster to find out

Beef patties pumped full of hormones, fillers and preservatives? Grant Imahara visits a food-processing plant to discover what exactly goes into a McDonald's burger.

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
3 min read

Grant Imahara finds out "where's the beef" in McDonald's burgers. Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Ever wonder what really goes into your Big Mac? McDonald's hired "="" host="" grant="" imahara"="" shortcode="link" asset-type="article" uuid="a279698e-e6c0-43f2-8a2a-d65ee1dcd57a" slug="mythbusters-drops-hosts-kari-byron-grant-imahara-tory-belleci" link-text="former " section="news" title="'MythBusters' drops hosts Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci" edition="us" data-key="link_bulk_key" api="{"id":"a279698e-e6c0-43f2-8a2a-d65ee1dcd57a","slug":"mythbusters-drops-hosts-kari-byron-grant-imahara-tory-belleci","contentType":null,"edition":"us","topic":{"slug":"culture"},"metaData":{"typeTitle":null,"hubTopicPathString":"Culture","reviewType":null},"section":"news"}"> to tackle the difficult questions consumers might have about the burgers the chain serves as part of a new campaign called "Our Food. Your Questions."

The promotional campaign claims to uncover the truth about the burgers, Chicken McNuggets, McRib sandwiches and other food sold at McDonald's. In a series of videos, Imahara answers questions like "Is McDonald's beef real?" and "Why are your burger patties frozen?"

Imahara interviews various behind-the-scenes players, including Rickette Collins, McDonald's director of strategic supply, about everything from preservatives, additives and hormones to the notorious "pink slime" -- beef trimmings treated with ammonia -- that consumers believe gets added to the meat.

"There's no pink slime in any of our meat -- not our beef, not our chicken, none of it," Collins told Imahara in the video. "There's zero pink slime in any of our products."

"McDonald's does not use lean beef trimmings treated with ammonia, what some individuals call 'pink slime,' in our burgers, and hasn't since 2011," McDonald's website also stated.

"McDonald's USA serves only 100 percent USDA-inspected beef- no preservatives, no fillers, no extenders -- period," the website added. "Prior to 2011, to assist with supply, McDonald's USA, like many other food retailers, used this safe product but it is no longer part of our supply."

Imahara says he isn't convinced, so he visits the Cargill food-processing plant, McDonald's US beef supplier in Fresno, Calif. He meets again with Collins and Jimmy Rendon, Cargill's operations supervisor, to go behind the scenes to find out if the fast food company adds fillers and preservatives to its burgers.

"Are there lips and eyeballs in there, Jimmy?" Imahara asks operations supervisor Rendon in the video.

"No, it's 100 percent beef trimmings from the cow," Rendon answers.

Imahara visits the beef inspection area to see for himself what goes into a McDonald's burger, then checks out the grinding and patty-forming process and takes a tour of the flash freezer.

The video also shows Imahara meeting Manoah Crane, Cargill food safety, quality and regulatory Technician, to cook the beef patties processed at the plant and see how they taste. They also go to an actual McDonald's restaurant to taste a burger with all the trimmings of lettuce, tomato, cheese and a sesame seed bun.

"It's been 15 years since I've had a Big Mac," Imahara admitted on the video. "That's really good." Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

In addition to its promotional videos, McDonald's is also fielding questions from customers and skeptics on Twitter and Facebook. This isn't the first time McDonald's has taken a more proactive role in reaching out to customers via YouTube and social media. Earlier this year, the fast food giant announced that Ronald McDonald himself would be taking a more active role online.

Whether the videos will cover other concerns about McDonald's -- from its black burgers to its creepy new Happy Meal mascot -- has yet to be seen.

Here's hoping more provocative questions will be asked, like "What's McDonald's opinion of the documentary 'Super Size Me?'" If it gives the answer, only time will tell if customers and critics will be "lovin' it."