Entries in Beef (6)


Beef Prices Rising as Farmers Deal with Demand, Drought

Ciaran Griffin/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s that time of year when Americans start firing up the grill, but the sound of sizzling beef burgers seems to be fizzling, thanks to a rise in the cost of beef.

A ground beef burger now costs $3.26 per pound, up from $2.99 a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And a sirloin steak now costs $6.86 per pound, up 7 percent from last summer.

“I’m buying less beef because prices … seem to be going up,” Meltin Escoboza told ABC News today.

Experts say the growing demand for U.S. beef from around the globe, including China, as well as a drought in the Southwest, are pushing up the price of beef.

Last year’s drought — the worst in U.S. history — dried up grazing grasses and sent the costs of corn and soybeans, both used in cattle feed, soaring. The current drought in the Southwest continues to wipe out the feed and makes it very expensive to raise cattle.

In response, ranchers slashed the size of their herds. The U.S. now has the smallest number of cattle since 1952.

Wally Weaver, a chef at the 3 Forty Grill in Hoboken, N.J., advised families to go for smaller portion sizes, rather than a lower quality beef, as well as bigger sides — a restaurant trick.

“That way you save a little money and you still get what you want to eat,” Weaver said. “We have awesome sides that we serve with the steaks and the other dishes. You don’t really notice.”

He also suggested using a portobello mushroom rather than meat because they are meaty and can be added as a side or stand in for a burger. Weaver said that if cheaper cuts such as flank and skirt steaks are used, they should be marinated for 24 hours in a vinegar-based liquid.

Lynn R. Russo-Talbot of Washington state said that turkey would be the new T-bone steak of the summer for her family.

And Kathy Robertson of Martinsville, Va., said that she mixed black beans and bread crumbs with her ground beef to stretch it longer.

Agriculture traders told ABC News Saturday that higher beef prices would remain high because, as ranchers increased the size of their herds, demand continues to grow, canceling out the extra supply.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Beef Prices Expected to Rise This Year as Farmers Deal with Drought

DC Productions/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Despite the torrential rainfall in the South with Hurricane Isaac, severe drought is affecting the Midwest, which is expected to make the already rising price of beef go higher.

Many farmers are selling their cattle to save their profits because they don't have the grass and water to feed them.

Missouri, which has 106,500 ranches -- the second largest number of any state, behind Texas -- is seeing noticeably smaller herds, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Last week, there were 30,571 cattle sold in the state, compared to 22,387 for the same week in 2011, according to data tracked by Missouri's Department of Agriculture.

"There's hardship out here for some of these guys due to drought and higher feed cost," said Bill Lapp, president of Advanced Economics Solutions, an economic research firm focused on the food industry.  "Consumers will feel pain too."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects that prices for cattle, or steer, for the fourth quarter will be $1.15 to $1.23 per pound, up from the 2011 annual average of about $1.14, which Lapp said is closely correlated to consumer beef prices.

The cattle industry and beef prices have been negatively affected since 2007 by cycles in the industry and an increase in exports, he said.

Lapp said the beef industry always sees an ebb and flow in herd sizes and commensurate increases or decreases in beef production, directed by the industry's profits.

Spikes in the price of corn, which is feed for cattle, in 2008 and 2011, and then one of worst droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year exacerbated the situation.

As supplies decrease, prices will likely increase further in 2013, consistent with the USDA's forecasts.

"Without regard to the high price of corn and drought, this has more or less been etched in stone," said Lapp, who is based in Omaha, Neb.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Beef Products Inc. Comeback: It's Not 'Pink Slime'; It's Safe, Nutritious Beef

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Beef Products Inc., maker of the ground beef filler USDA scientists nicknamed "pink slime," plans to launch a consumer education program aimed to restore confidence in the product it calls lean finely textured beef and the process it uses to sanitize and separate beef from meat scraps formerly used in pet food and cooking oil.

"'Pink slime' doesn't exist," Jeff Carlson of BPI said. "'Pink slime' never existed in any way, shape or form. Our product is 100-percent beef in every regard, from quality to nutrition."

The company held a news conference to say it will remind consumers that the USDA has given its seal of approval to the meat that was in 70 percent of grocery store hamburgers until many of the nation's largest grocery stores, responding to consumer concern, removed it from their shelves.

BPI said the product is as "safe and as nutritious as ground beef."

"It has the same nutritional value as any 94-percent lean product that you'd find on the marketplace today," Carlson said.

Critics say BPI, which has won food safety awards for its ammoniating process, overstates the product's similarity to fresh ground beef, because of the process it goes through to separate the meat from the fat and to kill bacteria.

Gerald Zirnstein, the former USDA microbiologist who first used the term "pink slime" and recommended against its inclusion in ground beef, said the first problem is that the BPI process begins with warming the meat scraps just enough so they don't cook but are easier to separate in a centrifuge.

"At that temperature, you increase the level of pathogens and the level of spoilage bacteria," Zirnstein told ABC News. "In order to turn this into a product they can potentially sell as 'meat,' and that's, [in] quotations, 'meat,' they add ammonia."

"Ammonia does two things most people don't realize," Zirnstein said. "In high levels, it does more than just kill the...pathogens. It also fixes the color of the meat. So the red meat stays pink."

Zirnstein said that is why he coined the phrase "pink slime."

"If that ammonia wasn't there, if it wasn't added to kill the bacteria, it would also come in as a gray product and you'd have gray slime," he said. "Gray slime!"

The former USDA scientist said that's his main complaint and the reason he recommended against the product's use.

"Because the ammonia fixes the color into a pink color, it can, quote, 'pass' as red meat, but it's a low-quality product going into the ground beef. The public's not aware of it, hasn't been for years. It's not their fault. Nobody told them."

BPI said lean finely textured beef is not labeled because it's just ground beef, and the company objects to it being called an additive.

Zirnstein said it is more than an additive. He calls it "an adulterate."

A former high-ranking BPI executive -- who the company said was fired and is now disgruntled -- disputed BPI's claim that its raw material, the beef trim, is the same as any other scraps used to make ground beef.

"Pink slime," said Kit Foshee, "comes from cuts or fat that is most highly susceptible to contamination during [the] slaughter process. Removing hide...that's exactly where the fat is harvested from...when they centrifuge, they're going to concentrate harmful bacteria."

And it was those extra pathogens that led BPI to use ammonia gas to kill the bacteria.

Zirnstein's former colleague at the USDA, Carl Custer, also a retired microbiologist, said the claim that "pink slime" is as nutritious as ground beef is wrong.

"Microbiologically safe and nutritionally complete are two different issues," Custer said. "It may be pink [but], nutritionally, it is not equivalent to whole-muscle tissue."

Custer said the ammonia gas does kill E. coli and salmonella if done properly, but much of the protein in lean finely textured beef is different than protein in pure ground beef.

"It would be sort of the equivalent to something like Jell-O or gelatin" said Custer. "Gelatin is connective tissue. It's been boiled down, but it is a protein. It's just not a complete protein. Add sugar to it and other things and it's delicious. And you do get some nutritional value. It's not as nutritional as whole muscle meat."

"Pink slime" does provide nutrition, but not as much as ground beef, according to Richard Ludescher, a nutritionist at Rutgers University in New Jersey who, at the request of ABC News, reviewed data from a study on lean finely textured beef from Iowa State University.

Ludescher said that because lean finely textured beef has five times the collagen level as standard ground beef it "will have a lower nutritional value than beef muscle."

Collagen is a protein, he said, that is higher in non-essential amino acids and lower in essential amino acids than meat from an animal's muscle.

"Addition of LFTB would thus lower the nutritional quality of ground beef," Ludescher said.

He added that even though it is not as nutritious as ground beef, Americans eat much more protein than we need so eating lean finely textured beef would not impact the average American's diet.

"The effect is certainly inconsequential," he said.

While BPI attempts to make its case to a public clearly concerned about what is in their ground beef, Bettina Siegel, a Houston mother of two who launched the petition to ban the product from school lunches, continues her fight to "just label it."

BPI's vice president and the wife of the owner responded in her press conference Monday: "What should we label it? It's 100-percent beef. What do you want us to label it?

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘It’s 100-Percent Beef’: Company on Defensive as It Closes Plants

Hemera/Thinkstock(SIOUX CITY, S.D.) -- After two weeks of no comments, Beef Products Inc., the maker of “lean, finely textured beef,” a product now known by the critics’ term for it, “pink slime,” came out swinging Monday during a news conference to announce the temporary closing of several facilities.

The company said that it was suspending all operations at three of its four plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa. Its headquarters in Sioux City, S.D., will remain.

It said Monday that it would continue to pay its workers for 60 days as it launches a public relations program designed to restore confidence in its product.

“After that 60-day period is over, if we haven’t been able to resume operations again by then, we believe we won’t have a decision other than to formally terminate those employees’ employment,” said Rich Jochum, the company’s corporate administrator.

The company blamed social media and news organizations, specifically ABC News, for what it called a gross misrepresentation of its product and process.

“What should we label it? It’s 100-percent beef,” asked Regina Roth, the company’s executive vice president. “What do you want us to label it? I’m not prepared to say it’s not beef because it’s 100-percent beef.”

She said that the company would “attack” the misconceptions in consumers’ minds through social media.

“What we’re going through is not something any other companies want to…have to endure,” Roth said.

Two former scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who reviewed the product advised against using it in ground beef and told ABC News that it was not the same as ground beef.

“It’s not fresh ground beef. It’s a cheap substitute being added in,” microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein said.

The scientists added that the filler was not as nutritious as ground beef, though the company disputed that.  An industry website noted that a side-by-side comparison of nutrition labels showed “90 percent lean beef trimmings and 90 percent lean ground beef have substantially identical nutritional value. And all USDA certified ground beef [with or without lean finely textured beef] found in your grocery store is considered to be a good or excellent source of 10 essential nutrients including protein, iron, zinc and B-vitamins.”

The low-grade trimmings used to produce lean, finely textured beef come from the parts of the cow most susceptible to contamination, often close to the hide, which is highly exposed to fecal matter. But because of the treatment of the trimmings -- after they have been simmered in low heat, separating fat and tissue using a centrifuge, they are sprayed with ammonia gas to kill germs -- the USDA says it’s safe to eat.

Last week, Kroger, Safeway, SUPERVALU and Food Lion announced that they would no longer carry the product because of consumer concerns. Walmart and Sam’s Club also announced they would start offering beef that does not contain lean finely textured beef.

The USDA has said that in the fall, schools will be able to choose whether or not they buy hamburger that contains the lean finely textured beef.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Beef, Laundry Detergent Prices Expected to Rise in 2012

Jupiterimages/Pixland/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Food prices are on the rise both in the U.S. and internationally because of bad weather and rising oil prices, but products we use at home including detergents are spiking as well.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization said its price index rose 1 percent from January to February, after rising almost 2 percent in January. The packaged food giant Kraft Foods, for example, raised prices 7.6 percent worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Speculation is blamed for part of the increase in food prices, placing poorer countries more at risk of social unrest, Wired Magazine reported.

The U.S. Consumer Price index (CPI) for all urban consumers increased 0.2 percent in January on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Feb. 17. Over the last year, the food index rose 4.4 percent.

Higher oil prices add to the cost of producing and transporting food and consumer staples. Oil rose for the second day on Thursday as Iran, the second-biggest OPEC producer, cut production after the U.S. and European nations imposed sanctions on the country related to its nuclear program.

Crude oil for April delivery settled at $106.58 a barrel and on the New York Mercantile Exchange at $106.58.

Bill Lapp, president of Advanced Economics Solutions, an economic research firm focused on the food industry, said beef will have the most noticeable price increase this year of all foods, after record increases in 2011.

Lapp's company is projecting a 12 percent increase in the cost of beef this year, most of which will be passed on to consumers. He said consumers could see increases of as much as 10 percent because a large amount of beef is sold in "retail cuts."

Limited beef supplies, in part due to reduced production and continued strong export demand, is driving the increase in prices.

Chicken prices will generally be higher in 2012 because of reduced supplies as chicken producers in the U.S. faced poor margins in 2011. He said the resulting cutbacks will limit supplies and lead to higher prices.

Fuel prices are eventually passed on, but retailers and restaurants face difficulty on passing those onto consumers as the businesses battle for the consumer's limited budget.

Rising fuel prices can also be attributed to the growing use of bio-diesels, said Tom Branna, editorial director of the Household and Personal Products Industry (Happi) magazine.

That has led to a rise in raw materials across the board because many chemical derivatives come from oil, which may affect household products like detergents.

Last June, Procter & Gamble, the world's largest household products maker, increased detergent prices by 4.5 percent, Happi reported. The company, based in Cincinnati, makes Tide, Gain and Era laundry detergents.

While laundry products have been engulfed in a "price-cutting atmosphere," Branna said marketers will think of new related products with higher margins to make up for any potential losses.

Procter & Gamble introduced Tide Pods last month after delaying the launch from August. Touted as the biggest laundry innovation of the year, a pod is a single-dose, dissolvable packet of detergent, stain fighters and brighteners all in one.

The retail price for a 35-count is $9.99, the 57-count retails for $14.99 and the 90-count is $21.49. The company says the products are more expensive than traditional detergent, but in line with other premium laundry products such as Tide with a Touch of Downy.

Branna said other manufacturers and markets are expected to follow suit and create similar premium laundry products.

"They're hoping consumers say, 'I like the use of the pods because they're easy to use and I'll pay the price for it,'" Branna said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Less Beef Being Consumed in the US, USDA Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Where's the beef?  These days, less of it is being found in the kitchens of the average American family, much to the consternation of cattle ranchers and meat packers.

There's no question that the nation's beef consumption habits have changed over the past decade for health reasons.  Another problem for the beef industry: the down economy and a fall-off in business of restaurants with main courses of steaks and other meat dishes.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, per capita beef consumption in 2011 was 57.4 pounds per person, a drop of 13 percent from 2001.  It's believed that the decline will continue next year by at least another five to six percent from 2011.

The beef industry has responded by developing cuts of meat that will satisfy steak lovers at lower prices.  Sales of cheaper ground beef have also risen substantially.

Meanwhile, the industry is also looking outside the U.S. to bolster business.  Sales have improved in Asian countries including Russia, where fears of mad cow disease have subsided over the past few years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio