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  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Packages of ground beef are seen in the cooler at Jeannotte's Market in Nashua, Friday afternoon.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Mike Healey picks up a package of ground meat at Jeanotte’s Market in Nashua on Friday. “It’s the best place to get beef,” Healey said of Jeanotte’s, which promises, as shown in the sign above, that none of its beef products contain “pink slime.”
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    A sign gracing the outer walls of Jeannotte's Market in Nashua proudly declares that their meat contains no pink slime. Recently the product being made mostly of beef trimmings that have been exposed to ammonia gas has come under scrutiny causing many major grocery chains to discontinue it's usage in their products. Jeannotte's grinds all of it's meat in store.
Sunday, March 25, 2012

No ‘pink slime’ here, say most Greater Nashua stores, schools

Though it has been declared safe by federal authorities, schools and grocery stores are distancing themselves from “pink slime” as if it were the plague.

School districts, restaurants and grocery store chains across the country have been quick to swear off using beef products that contain lean, finely textured beef, which consists of processed beef trimmings washed in ammonia. The product has been not-so-affectionately named “pink slime” by British chef Jamie Oliver and various media outlets.

Some local grocers are welcoming the attention “pink slime” is getting because it gives them the chance to promote the freshness and quality of their product.

Owner Glynn Bingham said Jeanotte’s signature item is its hamburger, and since employees grind it fresh every day, it now becomes even more appealing to customers.

It’s too early to tell, he said, but the “pink slime” effect could actually increase his business.

“I love it when stuff like this comes out,” said Bingham, who has owned Jeanotte’s for about 12 years. “We grind our own hamburg and put it out on our marquee board out front and get a lot of people asking about it. It has a pretty good reputation, and now we have more people coming in and trying it.

“Over time, I think we’ll see an increase in sales.”

School districts have been on the defensive for the last week, with parents calling to ask whether their children are being served the product in their lunches.

Hilda Lawrence, food service director for the Litchfield School District, said all beef products in the inventories of town schools have been checked and none include lean, finely textured beef among their ingredients.

She said Litchfield has served meat with the additive in the past, but the district is refusing any beef from this point forward that includes “pink slime.” Litchfield schools will instead buy their beef from private vendors, she said.

“Just the thought of it, and when you see the visual on TV … it’s like, ‘What?!’ ” Lawrence said.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that the National School Lunch Program would allow districts to opt out of accepting beef that contained the product.

Several school districts in Greater Nashua have taken advantage of that opportunity to keep “pink slime” out of their schools.

Nashua declared early last week that it buys beef from Costa Fruit & Produce Co., which doesn’t use lean, finely textured beef treated with ammonia. Food service director Jeanette Kimbell said the School District will no longer accept or use ground beef from the USDA commodity program until it can be guaranteed that the suppliers don’t use lean, finely textured beef treated with ammonium hydroxide.

Schools in Amherst, Brookline, Hollis and Mont Vernon don’t serve beef with “pink slime,” either, said Danielle Collins and Amy Cassidy, food service directors for SAU 39 and SAU 41, respectively.

Collins said their cooks prepare everything from scratch whenever possible, since all additives – not just “pink slime” – run contrary to a healthy diet.

“The sooner we can get back to whole foods, the better off we’ll be,” Collins said. “We don’t use any additives when we’re able to.”

Hudson and Merrimack school districts didn’t return messages seeking comment.

Grocery chains across the country also have stopped selling beef with the ingredient, citing many customer concerns.

Shaw’s, Hannaford, Shop ’n Save, Stop & Shop, Target, Kroger, Safeway, Supervalu and Food Lion, among many others, have stopped selling beef with the additive, according to media outlets and public statements released by the companies.

“Whether it be the name or the information floating around about it, it’s obvious that it raised a level of customer concern,” Shaw’s spokesman Steve Sylven said. “We’ve heard that and made the decision to no longer purchase this.”

Market Basket did carry several beef products with the additive, but it too has responded to customer concerns and will no longer buy any beef with the product.

Several more stores – Whole Foods, A&P and Costco among them – said they have never sold beef products with “pink slime.”

Fast-food chains McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell banned the beef trimmings from their products months ago.

Other school districts in the state, such as the Portsmouth School Department, have taken ground beef off the lunch menu entirely. Beef will return in the fall, but without any signs of lean, finely textured beef.

The University of New Hampshire switched vendors at an increased cost to ease student and parent concerns.

The additive has been around for years, according to several sources, but grew in popularity – or unpopularity, rather – after several stories on TV and in the media.

“The product is made from bits of meat left over from other cuts,” Associated Press food editor J.M. Hirsch said. “It’s heated and spun to remove the fat, then compressed into blocks for mixing into conventional ground beef.

“Because it’s so lean and inexpensive, producers often mix it into fattier meat to produce an overall leaner product.”

The trimmings are then washed with ammonia to kill bacteria. Facilities approved by the USDA are allowed to use up to 5 percent of ammonium hydroxide without declaring it on the food label.

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Kittle on Twitter (@Telegraph_CamK).