HyVee Stops Pitching Pink Slime to Pissed Public

OK, the titular alliteration signifies my jubilance. Hy-Vee just sent me the following email regarding pink slime. Looks like they are not only going to stop trying to convince people that pink slime is wholesome, but they appear to be in the process of removing it from their inventory as well.

Here’s what they wrote:

In response to concerns expressed by our customers, Hy-Vee has decided to discontinue the purchase of ground beef products containing Lean Finely Textured Beef. Although this ground beef meets all USDA standards for quality and safety, recent news stories have led to a loss of consumer confidence in the product.

We have notified our suppliers of this decision and are working to switch our product lines as quickly as possible. We want to thank our customers for sharing their feedback on this issue and assure them Hy-Vee will continue to listen and respond to their concerns, just as our company has been doing for more than 80 years.

Ruth Comer

Assistant Vice President, Media Relations

HyVee Considers Pink Slime “Wholesome”, “100% Beef”

I wrote HyVee (original query in comments below), our local grocery store chain to inquire whether or not the ground beef I buy at their meat counter contained “Pink Slime”. The response I got was a shock. Not only do they use it in their ground beef, but HyVee considers Pink Slime to be “wholesome”, “100% Beef that doesn’t require labeling”. Their response is really a tour de force of how professional communicators try to shape perception…

Dear Mr. O’Neill,

Thank you for contacting Hy-Vee via our website to express your concern about the use of Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) in ground beef.

The term “pink slime” is a derogatory and deliberately inflammatory term used by the media and critics of a product that has been safely used in the beef industry for almost 20 years. Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) is 100 percent beef, 95%+ lean, produced by separating lean meat from fat through a process very similar to the one used to separate cream from milk. Like all beef products, it is strictly regulated and produced in USDA-inspected plants. The USDA does not require ground beef blended with LFTB to be labeled because it’s not a separate ingredient – it’s all 100 percent beef.

All LFTB goes through FDA- and USDA-approved treatment processes to reduce the risk of harmful bacteria like E. coli. One such treatment process uses food-grade ammonium hydroxide gas (ammonia mixed with water). Ammonia is a compound consisting of nitrogen and hydrogen, found naturally in the environment and in all plants and animals, including humans. Ammonium hydroxide was declared safe by the FDA for use in food processing in 1974 and is used on a variety of products, including baked goods, puddings, cheeses and chocolates. It was approved for use in beef processing in 2001.

The vast majority of ground beef sold in supermarkets, as well as much of the ground beef sold to schools, hospitals and food service establishments, contains a small amount of LFTB. Use of LFTB reduces food waste and increases the lean content of ground beef. It is a safe, wholesome, 100 percent beef product. If you wish to purchase Hy-Vee ground beef that is not blended with LFTB, we would suggest our 85 Percent Lean Amana Chuck Trim – or you could purchase your choice of beef cuts from our service case and ask our meat specialists to grind it for you. Your Hy-Vee meat specialists will be glad to assist you and answer any questions you have regarding the meat you buy for your family.

Recent reporting on the industry’s use of Lean Finely Textured Beef has been sensational and irresponsible. There are NO health issues associated with use of this product in ground beef. It has been safely and widely used for almost two decades, and the ammonium hydroxide gas treatment process has been safely and widely used for more than a decade. The country’s leading food safety experts agree that the product is not only safe, but beneficial in meeting worldwide demand for quality lean protein.

Thanks for your inquiry. We appreciate you taking the time to write.

Ruth Comer
Assistant Vice President, Media Relations