The controversy over a common ground beef filler dubbed "pink slime" by critics has hurt short-term beef demand, a Tyson Foods Inc. executive said Tuesday.
The controversy over the product, which has prompted several grocery chains to announce they wouldn't carry beef containing it because of consumer complaints, has "put a fair amount of pressure on ground beef consumption," Tyson Chief Operating Officer Jim Lochner said at an investor presentation.
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But Lochner framed the controversy as a "two-week event" and said that demand should "recover quite quickly."
Longer term, Lochner echoed concerns by other industry sources that elimination of the product will lead to tighter beef supplies and higher prices.
"We'll probably see a two percent to three percent reduction in the available beef supply," Lochner said.
Beef Products Inc., a major producer of the additive, said Monday it will suspend production of a ground-beef filler at plants in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kansas; and Waterloo, Iowa. Its plant in Dakota Dunes, S.D., where the filler is also produced, will continue operating.
Helping to fuel opposition is the product's nickname of "pink slime."
The additive, known in the industry as lean finely textured beef, is made from scraps remaining after cattle are butchered into cuts such as steaks and roasts. Processors remove the fat from trimmings, and in some cases treat the meat for bacteria with ammonium hydroxide. The product is then mixed with ground beef, often making it leaner, according to the company.
The decision by Beef Products came as opposition built in recent weeks on the internet and in Congress, with several major supermarkets including Kroger Co., Safeway Inc. and Supervalu Inc. announcing they would phase out the product's use.
The filler has been used for two decades, and the US Department of Agriculture says it is safe. But as producers back away from using it, they will have to look elsewhere for substitutes.