A recent social media post called into question the quality and safety of beef purchased in American grocery stores. South Dakota beef producer Troy Hadrick and his wife, Stacy, are longtime industry advocates. Hadrick says the social media post originated in an unlikely place.
“It comes out of ranching is where it comes from. Cattle producers. And you get a handful of these folks that they’re either mad at the packer or, who knows, for whatever reason, and they will just spread this crap that the grocery store beef is bad. It’s full of fillers, it’s full of water, it’s not healthy, and can make you sick, and then they tell you that you should buy local from a rancher. Obviously, that’s not an option for everybody. I don’t think I know anybody that sells all of the cattle that they raise into the local beef market.”
In trying to promote their local beef sales, Hadrick says some producers are damaging the entire industry.
“It’s ridiculous, one, that I don’t care what if you’re trying to tout your own product, your own personal beef line, but man, the last thing you ever want to do is sit here and try to scare people about the beef at the grocery store because most people aren’t going to pay attention to the details. All they’re going to see is something, you know, ‘well, I saw rancher say that the grocery store beef is bad, and so I’m just not gonna buy it.’ It’s the farthest thing from the truth, and it doesn’t do our industry any good whatsoever.”
The social media posts showed store-bought beef with different coloring. Hadrick says there are valid scientific reasons meat turns darker, and that doesn’t affect the product’s safety.
“All you see is some random picture. We have no idea how the beef has been handled, whether if it’s fresh, if it’s been frozen, if it’s been out in the air, or whatever. So, a couple of things have happened. One, the color of the meat isn’t necessarily an indicator of anything safety-wise or quality-wise. You could take fresh, never-frozen ground beef and, if you wrap it up and you put it in a plastic wrapping and remove all the oxygen out of that environment, that meat becomes darker because what happens is oxygen interacts with that lean tissue, and that interaction is actually what makes that bright cherry red color that you associate with fresh beef. You can take fresh beef and wrap it up in a clear plastic container, and you’re going to see it get darker. Not because the quality is going bad or it’s turning rotten, it’s just the fact that you’ve taken it out of an oxygen environment.”
He says it’s not legal to have anything else in that package but ground beef.
“If the package is labeled ground beef, it is illegal for there to be water added to it, and it’s illegal for any other fillers to be added to it. The only thing that you can add to ground beef is seasoning, and then it has to be labeled as seasoned to ground beef. The only other thing you can do is if you’re buying beef patties and it says beef patties, sometimes you can add stuff to that too. But if you’re buying ground beef, then it has to be ground beef. Folks who claim that that’s happening, I mean, if they’ve got proof that that’s going on, they should report it because it’s illegal.”