'Pink slime' backlash may hurt Cargill

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 5, 2013 - 3:32 PM

Kroger Co. on Thursday joined two other national food retailers in saying it will no longer sell hamburger with finely textured beef, a move that could hurt Minnetonka-based Cargill Inc.

The beef filler, which has been dubbed "pink slime" by some food industry critics, has been the subject of negative publicity in recent weeks, with several fast-food chains also pulling the substance.

"Our customers have expressed their concerns that the use of lean finely textured beef -- while fully approved by the USDA for safety and quality -- is something they do not want in their ground beef," Kroger said in a statement.

While ammonia-treated finely textured beef has received the most heat, Kroger's ban also includes a citric-acid-treated version of the meat filler. Cargill makes the latter. Both ammonia and citric acid kill pathogens.

On Wednesday, Eden Prairie-based Supervalu and California-based Safeway also said they were banishing both types of finely textured beef. Ohio-based Kroger, Safeway and Supervalu are the nation's biggest supermarket operators outside of Wal-Mart.

Cargill spokesman Mike Martin said, "It's understandable that retailers have a concern given the news coverage and all the things swirling around the Internet. It's just unfortunate that a product that is 100 percent beef and 95 percent lean has been targeted and vilified by some."

The company declined to comment on its interaction with specific supermarket customers.

The filler is the product of food technology that allows for beef tissue that would otherwise be wasted -- or made into pet food -- to be turned into grist for hamburger. A storm of recent negative publicity has turned some consumers against it.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

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