Tuesday, October 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

With furor forgotten, ‘pink slime’ making its comeback

Maybe the power of the almighty dollar speaks louder than fear of the unknown.

Two years after a frenzy over “pink slime” swept the country, the much-derided meat product the industry calls finely textured beef is quietly rebounding.

As ground beef prices climb to new heights, the country’s largest producers of the meat ingredient — which has been deemed safe by federal regulators — are seeing an uptick in demand after it was shunned by grocers and fast-food restaurants.

“The fallout over the media furor has died down,” said Steve Kay, publisher of Cattle Buyers Weekly. “Now that the emotion is out of it, (consumers) realize the product always was and still is a perfectly legitimate beef product.”

Officials from Cargill Inc. and Beef Products Inc. said last week that they see increases in sales of the meat blend made from mostly fatty, boneless beef trimmings left over from slaughtered cattle.

Cargill produces finely textured beef and Beef Products sells a variation known as lean finely textured beef. The two products are differentiated by the patented processes used in making them.

A spokesman for Cargill said the company’s sales of finely textured beef bounced back — to an extent — after plunging 80 percent in the aftermath of the March 2012 controversy.

Yet the company’s product sales are still down 40 percent, spokesman Mike Martin said

Cargill sells to 400 customers, more than before the controversy, although some buy less of the product, Martin said.

A lawyer for Beef Products confirmed an increase in sales for its variation. He declined to comment further because of a pending defamation lawsuit the company brought against ABC News for referring to lean finely textured beef as “pink slime” in its coverage.

Beef Products accused the network of misleading the public into believing its low-fat product was unsafe to eat.

As a result, the company said it lost more than $400 million in sales and was forced to close three plants, including one in Garden City, Kan.

Cargill said the flare-up forced it to close a California plant. The negative publicity also factored into the idling of a plant in Plainview, Texas, employing 2,100.

The controversy brewed for months on blogs and among food-safety activists before it blew up in March 2012.

After the ABC report that month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it would allow the product to be kept out of school lunches even as the agency affirmed its safety.

The issue caught fire on social media, especially with reports that a USDA microbiologist a decade earlier had dubbed it “pink slime.” That gave the product a “yuck” reputation that Beef Products said was offensive.

“If that’s all you heard,” Martin said, “it was not a positive image of the product.”

Since then, producers have regrouped. Cargill, for example, has met with consumer focus groups nationally. Overall, the company has received feedback from more than 3,000 people, Martin said. The firm created a website dedicated to disseminating information about finely textured beef.

“Once people understood the product and how it’s produced, they had no problem with it,” Martin said.

Finely textured beef is harvested with a technology in use for 20 years that separates fat from beef scraps. Consequently, it allows producers to extract more meat from a carcass and produce ground beef more inexpensively.

The meat is then sprayed with a sanitizing mist — either a combination of ammonia and water or citric acid — and mixed with hamburger.

At one point before the controversy, the ingredient was believed to be in about 70 percent of the ground beef products sold in the United States.

Last fall, Cargill announced it would label its branded retail beef products containing the ingredient sold in grocery stores. The company encouraged retail grocers to follow suit.

Consumers shouldn’t go off the deep end as the product re-emerges, said Sarah Klein, a food safety attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“It probably shouldn’t have been maligned with the intensity that it was,” Klein said. “The reaction of everyone to distance themselves from the product gave credibility to what was eventually a non-issue to begin with.”

The return of finely textured beef is driven largely by dollars and cents, experts said, as the nation’s cattle herd has dwindled because of drought in the Southwest and the Great Plains.

At the beginning of the year, the nation’s cattle population totaled 87.7 million, down 2 percent from a year earlier and the lowest since 1951, according to USDA data.

Meanwhile, the price of ground beef stood at $3.81 a pound in April, up 17 percent from a year ago and the highest in at least 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Price was always going to play a huge factor in finely textured beef’s return,” said Kay, the cattle magazine publisher. “We’ve got this extraordinary appetite for ground beef and the supply of the raw material continues to shrink.”

Some grocers remain unwilling to sell the product.

Price Chopper and Dillons stores, for example, still don’t offer products containing lean fine textured beef, store officials said.

The product may be approved by the USDA, but consumers are still leery, Price Chopper President Peter Ciacco said in a statement.

“Because our customers have continued to express concern about the product, we have chosen not to purchase any ground beef that includes (lean finely textured beef),” Ciacco said.

Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Crime key topic again at Fairfield candidates night

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Pair testify in Laurel Creek shooting case

By Jess Sullivan | From Page:

 
Dixon corn maze breaks own world record

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A5 | Gallery

PAL center seeks volunteers

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A5

 
Police Department hosts employee recognition event

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A5

.

US / World

Police say they might have spotted ambush suspect

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta dies at 82

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Yosemite proposes raising entrance, camping fees

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
CDC releases revised Ebola gear guidelines

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Clinton: Midterm elections should motivate women

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Surfer fends off shark attack with fist, board

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

WWII airman to be buried in Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Brown: California needs long-term vision on water

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Colorado proposes edible pot ban, then retreats

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Submarine hunt sends Cold War chill across Baltic

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Oscar Pistorius to finally learn his sentence

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Youths, tech workers duel over San Francisco field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Suspect in Va. abduction charged in DC area rape

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Warming Earth heading for hottest year on record

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Lacking a plan, Abbas opts for rhetoric

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Police: Indiana suspect hints at more killings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Turkey says it helps Kurdish fighters enter Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Nigeria declared Ebola-free; ‘spectacular success’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Urgent-care clinics ill-equipped to treat Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
GOP governors don’t see ‘Obamacare’ going away

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

British royal couples’ 2nd child due in April

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Opinion

Spering kept youth league going

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
Day, Blankenchip good for respective cities

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

‘Misleading’ mailer sent to residents

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Oct. 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page:

 
.

Entertainment

Yearwood, Santana to perform at World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Standing ovation at Met Opera despite protest

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

Still the Same: Bob Seger launching tour, album

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
San Francisco radio stations ban hit song ‘Royals’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Pitbull to host American Music Awards on Nov. 23

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ actor arrested in Idaho

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

NBC’s Snyderman faces credibility issues

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
Not so fast cordcutters – cable’s not going anywhere

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

TVGrid Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
.

Sports

Local Report: Armijo boys soccer team falls to Vintage

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Steelers rally past stunned Texans 30-23

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Bumgarner against Shields in World Series opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Raiders plagued by 3rd-down defensive woes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Champion drag racer Raymond Beadle dies at 70

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Stiviano lawsuit against Shelly Sterling dismissed

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

With TD mark in bag, Manning can set more records

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
49ers lose center Daniel Kilgore, needs surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Giants-Royals: A capsule look at World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Belichick, Brady praise Manning on TD record

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Penn State board to meet on disputed Freeh Report

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
McIlroy to skip 2 events to focus on lawsuit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Column: Keselowski marches to his own beat

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Wanted: Cities interested in hosting 2024 Olympics

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Giants rely on core of 4 relievers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Royals, fans bond over improbable postseason run

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Voynov suspended on domestic violence suspicion

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Business

Facebook sues law firms, claims fraud

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Apple reports record 39.3 million iPhone sales

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

US regulator: Fannie, Freddie in deal with banks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Sears plans to raise more cash via rights offering

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Survey: Pay raises rarer despite strong US hiring

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

 
US agency warns car owners to get air bags fixed

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Pickles Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Bridge Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Sudoku Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Baby Blues Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sally Forth Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Wizard of Id Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C. Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Crossword Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Frank and Ernest Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Word Sleuth Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Garfield Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Beetle Bailey Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6