Much ado about "Pink Slime:" National grocers stop buying meat
"Pink Slime," or what the industry terms "Lean Finely Textured Beef," has been in the news quite a bit lately. As public awareness has spread about the beef-filler commonly used in ground beef, three major retailers have announced that they will no longer sell ground beef that contains the additive. From Yahoo:
At least three national supermarket operators have decided to stop buying ground beef that contains the filler now known as "pink slime."
Supervalu Inc. — which operates owns stores under the Acme, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher's, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw's/Star Market, Shop 'n Save and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy banners — said Wednesday that customer concern prompted it to stop carrying products containing the filler. Safeway Inc., which operates the Genuardi's and Dominicks chains, as well as Safeway stores, said Wednesday that it also has announced it will stop selling fresh or frozen ground beef with the filler.
Public outcry over "pink slime" has grown sharply as images, media reports and online petitions about it have spread.
The low-cost additive, which has been used for years, is made from fatty bits of leftover meat that are heated, spun to remove the fat, compressed into blocks and exposed to ammonia to kill bacteria. Producers often mix the filler into fattier meat to produce an overall leaner product and reduce their costs.
I'm not trying to pass judgment on ground beef, the industry, or what anyone chooses to eat, but I am happy to see this change. Our family stopped buying non-organic ground beef over five years ago for health reasons, and per the organic standard, organic ground beef cannot contain Lean Finely Textured Beef at all.
But the other side of the equation is the cost. Organic beef is expensive, so it's something we eat occasionally, not weekly. At Jewel, a pound of Wild Harvest ground beef sells for $6.99. I'm always happy when I find it close to the date code and can pick it up for a better price. (This past week, I found it with $4-off peelies stuck on by the meat department... that's a deal!)
As supermarkets continue to remove "pink slime" from their ground beef, the after-effect may also be higher prices. With the cheap fillers that made it low-cost going away, the fillers will have to be replaced with higher-quality (actual) beef.
I've been getting some email from readers on this topic. One wrote last night expressing this concern:
"Pink Slime: I'm curious about your thoughts on this trend. With everybody freaked out about it and a bunch of stores stopping to carry meat treated with it. I see this as a verrrrry bad trend. Please follow my logic. The pink slime is used to basically make unusable meat usable. The meat is then also used as a filler that in turn keeps the price of a little better quality meat lower. Correct?
So the cost of the little bit better quality meat will rise (because there is no filler). The unusable meat is now again unusable so the next better quality of meat will be in demand. That in turn will force the price of the little bit better quality of meat even higher. Then, everyone is going to complain because meat is so expensive."
Another reader writes:
"I was thinking about beef prices [with regard to "pink slime."] Thing is, Woodmans has never used it, so I doubt whether their beef will go up. Other stores will have to stay competitive."
What do you think? Are you concerned with eating "pink slime" in ground beef? Would you be willing to pay more for ground beef free from this filler, or do you expect ground beef prices to remain about the same?
"Pink Slime" image used under Creative Commons license.