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War On ‘Pink Slime’ Pushing Beef Costs Even Higher

The name "pink slime" is being applied to lean finely textured ground beef.

The price of beef has been rising for almost two years now, and the beef industry says prices will go even higher now that the use of so-called “pink slime” in ground beef is being phased out.

“It will absolutely put a lot of pressure on ground beef prices,” says Joe Moore with the Indiana Beef Cattle Association, which refers to the beef byproduct as lean finely textured beef (LFTB).

It was given the nickname ‘pink slime‘ by U.S.D.A. microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein in what he thought was a private e-mail to colleagues. After the e-mail went public, some consumer groups began campaigning against the byproduct, which is treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria and then used to make ground beef leaner.

Many restaurants and stores have stopped selling ground beef that contains LFTB, and the company that makes it has suspended operation at three of its four facilities.

Beef producers say prices were already high even before the talk of ‘pink slime‘ because of the high price of corn for feed and the low supply of cattle. ”

We are at the lowest cattle inventory numbers in the United States since 1952,” Moore says. “Our population has basically doubled since 1952, so sure, we‘re going to see a lot of pressure beef prices at the retail and the food service end.”

Moore says there will be more price pressure now because LFTB made up 15-percent of the nation‘s ground beef production.

“There is no replacement for 15 percent of that product in our country right now,” he says. “We‘ve seen ground beef prices increase 20- to 25-percent over the last 12 months. We‘re going to see more increases especially as we go into summer grilling season.”

That, Moore says, could lead to some shortages of ground beef in some parts of the country.

“It would take approximately 1.5 million head of cattle to replace the beef supply that we lost through doing away with lean finely textured beef,” he says.

Major supermarket chains such as Krogers, Albertsons, Wal-Mart, and others have stopped selling beef with LFTB in it.

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