Giant Food Stores announced Thursday it will no longer sell meat with a controversial filler called "lean, finely textured beef" by the meat industry and "pink slime" by opponents.
The reason? Customers hate it, and they said so by telling store managers, calling the Giant consumer affairs department and sounding off on Facebook.
“More than 100 customers expressed concerns over finely textured ground beef; we, of course, listen and have a good relationship with our customers,” Giant Food Stores spokesman Christopher Brand said Thursday. “The feedback has been overwhelmingly negative.
“I will tell you that we have a very educated consumer," Brand continued. "It’s not something that they wanted to purchase.”
Giant joins a growing contingent of grocery stores hurrying to distance themselves from recent consumer outrage over "pink slime" - which is created by heating beef trimmings, then spinning them to separate the lean beef from the fat.
The resulting meat is compressed and then treated with ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria. Then it is blended into ground beef. Because it is considered a beef product, it is not labeled on packages of ground beef that consumers buy in the grocery store.
The American Meat Institute has said the process makes the best use of available resources and helps keep the cost of meat down.
"All types of lean finely textured beef are sustainable products because they recover lean meat that would otherwise be wasted," the group says. "It’s the right thing to do and it ensures that our products remain as affordable as we can make them while helping to feed America and the world."
The product has been a standard in the meat industry for years, Brand said. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it is safe.
But after recent and growing public outcry, the USDA said on March 15 that the National School Lunch Program will allow school districts to decide whether to buy ground beef that contains the filler.
"USDA only purchases products for the school lunch program that are safe, nutritious and affordable – including all products containing Lean Finely Textured Beef," the department said. "However, due to customer demand...USDA will provide schools with a choice to order product either with or without Lean Finely Textured Beef."
As for , it plans to continue selling off its stock of meat with finely textured beef that’s already on the shelf, a process Brand said likely would take a few weeks.
In the meantime, Brand said customers may want to buy Nature’s Promise brand organic beef; Laura’s Lean Beef; and certified Angus beef — none of which includes lean, finely textured beef, he said.
Another alternative is to buy cuts of beef from the butcher case and ask the butcher to grind it for you.
Safeway, which operates the local stores (until ongoing are complete) said Wednesday it also will no longer buy fresh or frozen ground beef containing lean, finely textured beef.
"Our customers’ concerns matter to us," Safeway said in a press release and on its Facebook page. "While the USDA has stated that this is a safe product, Safeway is committed to providing you with quality products that meet your standards."
On Wednesday, Acme Markets also announced it would no longer sell fresh ground beef with the filler.
"While it’s important to remember there are no food safety concerns with products containing finely textured beef, we made this decision due to ongoing customer concerns," said. "We are currently working with our suppliers to ensure a smooth transition to this new policy."
Want to learn more?