Entries in Ground Beef (6)


Plant Closed by USDA Supplied Beef for In-N-Out Burger

Compassion Over Killing(WASHINGTON) -- Federal inspectors have temporarily shut down a California meat company that provided beef for the popular In-N-Out Burger chain and the U.S. school lunch program, saying there was evidence of "egregious, inhumane handling and treatment of livestock."

The federal action came Monday after inspectors viewed an undercover video made at the Central Valley Meat Company in Hanford, California over two weeks last month by an investigator for the animal rights group, Compassion Over Killing.

The tape shows workers using electric prods on cattle that can barely walk and the group alleged that the company used potentially diseased "downer cows" and treated them in an inhumane manner.

"The abuses that we uncovered should concern people for the way in which these animals were treated, but it also brings up food safety concerns and that is something that the American public wants to know about," said Erica Meier, the executive director of Compassion Over Killing.

Under federal law, since 2009, "non-ambulatory disabled cattle are not eligible for slaughter" for human consumption because of concerns the so-called "downer" cattle could carry disease, including mad cow disease.

The ban on "downer" cows, according to Meier, came "shortly after another investigation inside a California slaughter house uncovered similar egregious abuses."

"That investigation resulted in the nation's largest meat recall," she added.

There is no indication any of the cows slaughtered at the Central Valley Meat plant were diseased and the USDA did not order a recall of beef coming from the plant.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service said the action was based on the company's failure to prevent the inhumane handling of livestock for human consumption.

"Upon confirming several humane handling violations, FSIS suspended operations at the facility and is prepared to take further action as warranted by the investigation," a spokesperson told ABC News.

A spokesman for In-N-Out Burger says Central Valley Meat provided between 20 and 30 percent of the beef used by the chain's restaurants and that it canceled its contract immediately once it heard of the allegations Monday.

In-N-Out Burger has developed a devoted following, including a long list of Hollywood celebrities, based on its claims of "quality you can taste." Its website says the chain makes its own hamburger patties "using premium cattle selected especially for In-N-Out-Burger," for which it says it pays "a premium."

A company spokesman said its own inspectors at the now-closed plant had never seen any inhumane treatment of the kind allegedly captured on the video.

In a statement to ABC News, the chain's chief operating officer, Mark Taylor, said, "In-N-Out Burger would never condone the inhumane treatment of animals, and, in fact, all of our suppliers must agree to abide by our strict standards for the humane treatment of cattle."

Central Valley Meat is also a supplier of beef to the USDA national school lunch program. It currently holds a $3.8 million, two-month contract with the government.

In a statement, the president of Central Valley Meat, Brian Coelho, said, "We take these allegations seriously and we are committed to correcting any problems identified on the video as quickly as we possibly can."

Coelho said the allegations "are both disturbing and surprising" because the plant is "under continuous inspection by USDA Food Safety and Inspection personnel who are empowered to take immediate action when they observe a problem."

The animal rights group said the failure of on-site federal inspectors was its own red flag.

"These abuses inside slaughter houses across the country are often happening right under the nose of government inspectors," said Meier of Compassion Over Killing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Pink Slime’ Maker AFA Files For Bankruptcy

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- AFA Foods, a company that produces beef products, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday and announced it’s selling some assets because of a decrease in demand attributed to the recent media coverage of “pink slime.”

The company, based in King of Prussia, Pa., said it secured $56 million in financing to continue operating during the bankruptcy process.

AFA Foods, which according to Bloomberg employs about 850 full-time employees, said in the bankruptcy filing that the media’s reporting on “pink slime” has created “changes in the market.”

Beef Products Inc., one of AFA’s competitors, has also experienced a dramatic decline in sales and closed three of its four plants last week.

Until recently, the lean finely textured beef, known to critics as “pink slime,” was added to America’s fast food chains, school lunches and 70 percent of all ground beef sold at grocery stores.

Due to consumer complaints following recent media reports several fast-food chains and many of the nation’s largest grocery chains have stopped purchasing beef that contains the filler. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also announced that schools that are part of the government’s lunch program will be able to choose whether they purchase lean finely textured beef.

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


Safeway, SUPERVALU and Food Lion to Stop Selling 'Pink Slime' Beef

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Safeway, SUPERVALU and Food Lion announced Wednesday that they will no longer carry what the meat industry calls "lean finely textured beef," something the public has come to know as "pink slime."

All three companies site customer concerns as one of the primary reasons for the change.

"While the USDA and food industry experts agree that lean, finely textured beef is safe and wholesome, recent news stories have caused considerable consumer concern about this product. Safeway will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean, finely textured beef," the company said in a statement.

Safeway is the second largest supermarket chain in the U.S. SUPERVALU, which operates Acme, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher's, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw's/Star Market, Shop 'n Save and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, is the third largest chain.

Walmart and Sam's Club also announced they would start offering beef that does not contain lean finely textured beef.

"Recently some customers have expressed concerns with lean finely textured beef (LFTB) and, while the USDA and experts agree that it is safe and nutritious, Walmart and Sam's Club will begin offering fresh ground beef that does not contain LFTB," the company said.

Walmart and Sam's Club were not alone in changing their practices. Kroger, the nation's number one grocery store, which carries beef both with and without it, said it provided a list of which beef does not contain the product to its meat departments so they can answer any questions.

"Meat departments have the list and we shared it widely on our Facebook page," the company said.

Public pressure from shoppers asking their butchers about what was in their beef and from Bettina Siegel, a mother of two, who started an online petition, which now has more than a quarter million signatures, helped spur the supermarkets to change.

Siegel commended the stores that have taken action, but is still concerned.

"It disturbs me that USDA made a decision that this filler, up to 15 percent doesn't have to be disclosed," she told ABC News. "Therefore the consumer is at the mercy of each retailer's decision."

The low-grade trimmings 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 -- simmering them in low heat, separating fat and tissue using a centrifuge, and spraying them with ammonia gas to kill germs -- the United States Department of Agriculture says it's safe to eat.

In response to our coverage, ABC News has been flooded with questions from concerned viewers about pink slime.

Many wanted to know whether it was in ground turkey or chicken, it is not. Pink slime is only being added to beef products, primarily ground beef, but it is also in some processed meats.

As for organic meat, if yours is stamped USDA Organic, it's pure meat with no filler.

Otherwise, you can't know from the packaging because pink slime does not have to appear on the label. And the USDA is giving no indication it will force meat packers to lift the veil of secrecy any time soon.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Safeway to Stop Selling ‘Pink Slime’ Textured Beef

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Safeway, America’s second largest supermarket chain, has announced it will no longer sell what the meat industry calls “lean finely textured beef” and what the public has come to call “pink slime“.

Safeway says that “considerable consumer concern” led to its decision, even though the chain believes its beef with the controversial filler in it is safe.

“Safeway is committed to providing our customers with the highest-quality products,” the company said in a statement.  “While the USDA and food industry experts agree that lean finely textured beef is safe and wholesome, recent news stories have caused considerable consumer concern about this product.  Safeway will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean finely textured beef.”

Makers of “lean finely textured beef” and the U.S. Department of Agriculture say that it is not an additive and need not be labeled, and that it is safe to eat.  But critics, including former USDA scientists, contend the ammonia treated “pink slime” -- made from low quality scraps once used for dog food and cooking oil -- is less nutritious than pure ground beef.

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

Seventy percent of all store bought ground beef contained “pink slime,” but since ABC News exposed its widespread use, many grocery stores have told shoppers their meat counters are free of the mixture.

The USDA announced last week that it will disclose to school districts which of its suppliers use pink slime so administrators can decide whether to purchase it.

Safeway has 1,400 stores coast to coast, second only to Kroger.  The chain now joins Publix, HEB, Whole Foods and Costco promising their ground beef is additive free.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio