Jean McNamer of Roseville had a very uneasy feeling as the meat salesman ran down her driveway to get back into his vehicle. She had just written a check for $339 for two cases of steaks and considered running after the Iowa Steak Company salesman to reconsider.
But she had to pick up her daughter from school so she left after putting the meat in the freezer. But when she returned home, she googled the company and saw lots of warnings not to buy. "Dumb, dumb, dumb," she said. "It's a lesson learned though I thought I had learned this long ago."
Yes, doorbells will be ringing again in many Twin Cities neighborhoods now that grilling weather has finally arrived. The door-to-door meat sales people are a summertime ritual that's starting later than usual this year, "It's the late spring" said Dan Hendrickson, spokesman for the better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. "In 2012 we had 21 complaints about meat sold door to door. In 2013 we've only had two so far," he said.
The BBB said they are monitoring about seven door-to-door meat sellers, including Iowa Steak Company.
Some are licensed such as Schwan's, but many are not, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Selling unmarked meat from the back of a vehicle should raise all sorts of red flags but unsuspecting consumers may be taken off-guard by the urgency in their sales pitch.
"They're at the end of their shift, their truck has broken down, or they have some unsold meat from their restaurant sales route. We've heard them all," said Dave Read at the MDA. And despite what meat sellers claim, meat supply companies don't sell unsold inventories door-to-door."
In 2004 Farmer's Pride Meat Co. in Blaine had to surrender its food handler's license after more than 100 customers filed complaints. The company had failed to notify its customers of a product recall and a number of them became ill, according to the MDA.
The MDA wants consumers to notify the agency of any meat salespeople in their neighborhood. It and the BBB suggest the following if a salesperson tries to sell you street meat.
Ask to see a wholesale or retail food handler's license for selling meat. Also ask for brochures and business cards to contact the seller. If none are provided, get a license plate number and call the MDA at 651-201-6027 (the Dairy and Food Inspection Department--DAFI).
Buy only meat that comes from a refrigerated truck, not an ice chest or the trunk of a car.
Pay with a credit card instead of cash or a check.
Ask for the price per pound and see if the weight is labeled on the packaging.
In Minneapolis, ask for a city-issued photo ID card, which is required for door-to-door salespeople except canvassers, school or youth groups or magazine sales.