Stephanie Ross and Cedar Ross pick up hamburger they plan to feed to their dog at Shop 'n' Kart in Ashland Wednesday. Stephanie thinks the 'Pink Slime' added to meats is disgusting and they are happy to learn that Shop 'n' Kart has never sold products with the additive. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Ground to a halt

Markets in the Rogue Valley have moved swiftly to pull all "lean, finely textured beef" — or "pink slime" as it's better known — from shelves amid a public outcry, though the filler made from meat scraps in packing plants is considered to be safe and healthful by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Supervalu, the parent corporation for Albertsons, announced Wednesday that because of public concern it has stopped carrying products with the filler. Ashland Albertsons has never carried the filler in its meats, which are ground daily in the store, said director Paige Vaughan.

The Safeway chain also announced Wednesday it has stopped carrying the substance, also called boneless lean beef trimmings. Burger King, McDonalds and Taco Bell discontinued it last December.

The locally owned Thunderbird and Food 4 Less stores are pulling meat containing the filler, but co-owner Steve Olsrud said it's hard to know what meats have it.

"It's beyond our control," he said. "We didn't even know about this stuff two weeks ago. It was a surprise. It's been going to 99 percent of the population in the country. The product is 100 percent safe and has been used since 1993. But it's going away now. Everyone's discontinuing it. I can't imagine anyone liking something with that name."

The unfortunate nickname of "pink slime" exploded over the Internet in recent weeks. The filler is made from meat scraps in packing houses that are put through a centrifuge to get rid of fat, then gassed with ammonia to kill any bacteria.

The resulting lean beef can be added to any ground meat. By law, it is not required to be labeled as an ingredient and is considered 100 percent pure beef.

Shop'n Kart in Ashland gets its beef from Painted Hills Natural Beef in Central Oregon, which doesn't use the filler, says market manager Eric Chaddock.

Grabbing packets of the natural beef from the Shop'n Kart cooler, Stephanie Ross says the other stuff is "disgusting ... something I'd never put in my body knowingly. If it's going into schools, I would pack my son's lunch, for sure."

Jeff Ashmun, area general manager for Sodexo, which supplies school lunch food for Southern Oregon, says its meat provider, AdvancePierre, this year discontinued any products containing the beef filler— so no "pink slime" is going to schools in the region.

"Any time we can reduce food with additives in it, that makes me happy," said Ashmun.

The controversy has plunged the Oregon Department of Education into a challenging project of contacting all its meat suppliers. So far, ODE has found that none is using the meat filler, says spokeswoman Christine Miles in Salem.

"It goes back to labeling laws because the USDA doesn't require it to be named on the label. But people want to know what's in the meat," says Miles. "The USDA considers beef trimmings to be 100 percent ground beef. We've looked at the research and we believe it's safe. But is it the first choice we want schools to pick? No."

As a result, says Miles, starting in June the USDA will require meat suppliers to label if ground meats are "ammoniated," so that schools "will have the right to choose." Oregon schools, she says, place their meat orders with the USDA, which sends them out to suppliers.

Ashland schools food service director Gema Soto said schools have no way of knowing what is in its meats, but "pink slime is a heck of a name, a catchy slogan and the meat is probably not that savory and appetizing."

Although the ammoniation process kills germs, grocery shopper Deborah Gilbert said, "It's not OK. I read labels and they don't put it on there. I find that offensive. I'm sure I've eaten my share of it and I've just become aware of it."

Shopper Kathy Cooper said, "I wouldn't want it. Everything should be listed on the ingredients. This country should be more conscientious about what's in food."

Another shopper, Gary Hirsh said, "It's lying to the public. You're paying for what you think is meat and it's by-products. It's cheating customers."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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