Tom Lowe, owner of Lowe's Variety and Meat Shop, has gotten some 15 calls a day within the past two weeks asking, "Do you use pink slime in your beef?"
There's been a lot of talk about pink slime lately. Name something "pink slime," and it's generally not going to get a positive reaction, unless it's a children's toy. This isn't a children's toy.
The revelation of the use of "pink slime," which is ammonia-treated beef trimmings, shocked the nation, particularly because it is approved by the Department of Agriculture. Amidst a wave of questioning, the USDA has defended its decision, stating "All USDA ground beef purchases must meet the highest standards for food safety."
Lowe hadn't even heard of the term until less than two weeks ago, and had no idea it was being added to mass-produced hamburger. He says, without reservation, there is absolutely no pink slime in any of the beef sold at Lowe's. Its beef is ground on the premises 20 times a day, and he does not order any preground hamburger for the store.
"When someone wants patties, I just make them," said Lowe. "I don’t buy frozen. There is none [pink slime]. Zero. Not in the freezer or in the cooler. I just don’t do any processed hamburger whatsoever. I make my own meatballs and shepherd’s pie, so I don’t even use it as a byproduct. But, I have had a tremendous amount of people asking us about this. I had a guy call me from Worcester to buy our hamburger. People are serious about this."
Lowe adds that the price of ground beef at Lowe's, too, is comparable to any supermarket. "I think we are identical as far as a single serving size," said Lowe.
Wegmans, in response to the massive concern over pink slime, sent out a press release on March 9 to address the issue.
"Most ground beef contains a small percentage of boneless lean beef trimmings," it reads. "Our processor [Cargill Meat Solutions] does not use ammoniated meat products in the production of fresh ground beef for Wegmans. Our supplier tests all of our ground beef products for E. coli O157:H7 before the product leaves the plant and boxes are numbered so they can be tracked once they arrive at the store and are packaged for retail sale. Cargill abides by all regulatory requirements in making ground beef, and all of Wegmans specifications are met in the process."
Although Wegmans ground beef does not contain "pink slime," the release added that "we also want to make clear that this is a process approved for use in the production of ground beef. The American Meat Institute has developed a Q&A for consumers on this topic, and they have also produced a video to clear up misconceptions about the process. Wegmans organic and Food You Feel Good About ground beef do not contain boneless lean beef trimmings."
UPDATE March 23: “We’ve made a decision to stop selling ground beef that contains Lean Finely Textured Beef," said Danny Wegman, CEO of Wegmans Food Markets. "Having grown up in the meat business, we have always been proud of our ground beef and eat it ourselves. Because of the sensationalism of this issue it has become a concern for our customers. Every decision we make is with our customers in mind. Our commitment remains the same. We will continue to source the best quality ground beef, now without lean finely textured beef.”
Jo Natale, director of media relations for Wegmans, clarified that Wegmans is not removing these products from sale. "We will transition to ground beef without lean finely textured beef," she said, "as soon as its available from our supplier. That timeline is now being determined."
Are you concerned about the pink slime issue? Has it made you more aware of where your beef comes from?