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Beef

Over the past week, lean, finely textured beef has hit the media, and the product, dubbed “pink slime,” is creating concern for consumers.
    Lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) is the result of a process utilized to extract lean beef from fat trimmings, and, according to the Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program, the high-technology processing strategy yields 10 to 12 pounds of additional beef per animal.
What’s the fuss?
    A number of reports have claimed that LFTB is substandard, less nutritional and unsafe. High profile media outlets and popular television shows across the nation have perpetuated the myths with little or no scientific background to support their claims.  
    “‘Pink slime’ has gotten media attention largely because of what it is being called,” says Wyoming Beef Council Executive Director Ann Wittmann. “The truth of the matter is, it’s ground beef.”
    Wittmann adds that, beyond increasing the poundage and weight of lean beef available to the consumer, LFTB ensures consistency and protein content in beef.
A ‘filler’ product
    One notion that has circulated through the media is that LFTB is a “filler” product, and some are advocating for the labeling of any product containing LFTB.
    Janet Riley, senior Vice President of the American Meat Institute, asked in an interview on ABC, “What are you asking me to put on the label? It’s beef.”
    “It’s a beef product, and it says beef. It’s on the label,” she emphasized. “This is beef, so we are declaring it.”
    Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), one of the companies who makes LFTB, has taken a number of steps to inform the public, including a series of videos on the process, and the launch of a website, pinkslimeisamyth.com.
    “BPI’s product is not filler – BPI’s product is, in fact, lean beef,” says Iowa State University animal science professor Jim Dickson. “It is 95 percent lean beef.”
    MBA also states, “This product is nutritionally equal to ground beef, and the process has been used safely for more than 20 years.”
    “What the BPI process does is separate the lean meat from the fat. It is the same type of idea as ground beef, and it is really no different than ground beef that consumers buy,” continues Dickson.
    For its nutritional value, H. Russell Cross, professor and head of Texas A&M University and former USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) administrator, notes, “All beef is a good or excellent source of 10 essential nutrients including protein, iron, zinc and B-vitamins.”
    Wittmann also adds that LFTB has a very high protein content, and there is no reason for the consumer to be worried.
A safe product
    BPI has also come under fire for the use of ammonium hydroxide in the product to destroy bacteria. Other systems utilize citric acid instead, says MBA, but the idea is the same.
    Dave Theno, doctor of food microbiology and animal sciences, adds, “For prevention to be effective it has to be dispersed at very precise level, that’s how it is approved as a processing aid, and it has to be dispersed evenly.”
    “It doesn’t involve a washing machine and a jug of ammonia cleaner that he has gotten out of the household cabinet – that’s not how it works at all,” clarifies Theno.
    “The beef is not ‘soaked in ammonia’ as many reports have claimed, but rather sprayed with a ‘hydrolyzed ammonia’ mist to kill bacteria, which then evaporates and completely dissipates,” says MBA.
    When the product was first introduced, the FSIS approved LFTB after extensive testing to make sure it was safe for human consumption and complied with USDA regulations.
    Cross says, “My staff and I evaluated numerous research projects before approving lean, finely textured beef as a safe source of high-quality protein.”
    “The FSIS safety review process was and is an in-depth, science-based process that spans years, many research projects and involves many experts across all levels of the agency – and in this case, the process proved the product is safe,” he continues.
    In fact, MBA states, in the past 10 years, while this technology has been used, the number of ground beef samples testing positive for E. coli O157:H7 has been cut in half.
What can you do?
    Dispelling the claims spread through mass media is a difficult task, but there are some things that producers can do to help educate themselves and others about LFTB, according to Wittmann.
    “One of the things I would encourage ranchers to do is join the Masters of Beef Advocacy program or contact the Wyoming Beef Council for talking points and information about the issue,” says Wittmann, adding that those already a part of the MBA program receive the talking points, as well as other information and alerts, when issues come up concerning beef.
    “A benefit of MBA is that you are armed with information so you can address the issues comfortably, without feeling out of your element,” she adds. “If there are questions, we encourage producers to call us.”
    Wittmann also adds that beef checkoff dollars are utilized in provide information to respond to issues, such as the pink slime scare sweeping across the country today.
    “Your checkoff investments work to address these issues,” she says. “We have the science and the answers to these concerns, and producers are welcome to use us as a resource.”
    “The product remains a safe way to meet the nutritional needs of a growing population,” Cross comments. “Finely textured lean beef helps us meet consumer demand for safe, affordable and nutritious food.”
    For more information on “pink slime,” contact the Wyoming Beef Council at 307-777-7396 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Riverton – Over the past decade, significant research has provided a number of new cuts of meat for beef and lamb, as well as other species, and University of Wyoming Extension Meat Specialist Warrie Means noted that those cuts provide more variety at the meat case.

“There are a lot of different meat cuts,” Means said during a presentation at Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days on Feb. 10.

“There are pages and pages of lists of different cuts,” he continued, “and there are lots of good resources for meat cuts. However, some of the resources we’ve used for a long time are a little outdated because of the alternative cuts that we’ve developed lately.”

He explained that since the 1970s, a trend toward leaner, more boneless and more specific muscle cuts has been seen.

The resulting development of new cuts has created smaller portion sizes that are more uniform in cooking and tenderness.

“These are all good things for our consumers,” Means emphasized.

Cutting meat

Means delved into the varied reasons that meat is portioned into cuts.

“We cut meat because slaughter animals provide too big a portion size,” he said. “We also cut up roasts, steak and chops for our use.”

Chops differ from roasts based on the size of the animal, he explained.

“Many years ago, large meat cleavers were used to cut meat, and with a cleaver, we could more easily chop through the backbone vertebrae of a lamb or pig,” he said. “We couldn’t get through the backbone of a beef very easily. Therefore, chops come from lambs and pigs.”

Means continued that cutting meat allows similar muscles to be kept together. 

“We want the similarity because muscles have differences in tenderness,” he said. “The loin is generally more tender and has a different fat content compared to the chuck, so if we can separate them, it is better for cooking, eating and for our profits.”

Middle meats are derived from the rib and loin, which are most valuable, most tender and have the least amount of connective tissue.

Cooking techniques

“We also have to think about how we are going to cook the meat,” Means said, noting that different cuts should be cooked in different ways.

“If we are going to cook a roast, we want it to be more consistent and globular-shaped,” he said. “This also allows it to cook more evenly. Steaks also need to be evenly cut, not wedge-shaped.”

The degree of doneness is also important in the tenderness of the product.

“If we cook a steak more than medium degree of doneness, it will toughen,” Means explained. “That is called myofibrular toughening. As this happens the proteins also start to lose moisture at an accelerated rate. Therefore, beef cooked to well done is drier and less tender.”

“Cooking changes the tenderness, and it changes the texture,” he added. “It also changes the flavor and the color. All of these things are important to people when they are looking at a piece of meat.”

New cuts

In beef, cuts like the flat iron steak, petite tender, mock tender roast, flanken-style ribs and Korean style ribs have all been recently developed or, in some cases, rediscovered.

The flat iron steak comes from the shoulder top blade.

“A top blade roast can be cut into steaks, but the problem is the huge seam of connective tissue that runs through it,” Means said. “To make the flat iron, they filet out the connective tissue for two steaks.”

Though the steaks are thin, they are flavorful and tender, he explained..

The petite tender comes from the shoulder, as well, from a muscle named the teres major. This is a relatively tender muscle that can be made into small medallions.

Another cut from the beef chuck is the chuck tender, also called a mock tender roast.

“The mock tender roast is different than a tenderloin,” he said. “It’s been around for a long time. They don’t make good steaks, but it’s a good roast.”

Flanken-style ribs are similar to short ribs, and they are cut from the beef chuck. When flanken-style ribs are cut thin, they are called Korean-style ribs. 

“Korean-style ribs can be cooked in a wok,” he explained. “They are very flavorful and very sought-after for Asian-style cooking.”

Other chuck cuts

The deep pectoral is a muscle that also offers desirable traits.

“The deep pectoral muscle is the same muscle as the brisket, but it is left in the chuck when we separate those two,” Means said. “It can be ground or used as a roast, and it’s really good if cooked properly so the connective tissue is broken down, similar to brisket.”

The chuck roll or chuck eye roll also comes from the beef chuck. It comes from the area of the chuck at the fifth rib and forward.

“We cut the chuck and the rib between the fifth and sixth ribs,” Means explained. “There isn’t much difference between the steaks on the chuck or the rib at that interface, and it is pretty good. The posterior end, say ribs three through five,  of the chuck eye closest to the rib can be cooked like a prime rib. It is awesome and about one-third the cost of a prime rib.”

Means noted that these cuts are only a few of the many options available to consumers.

With new advancements in cutting meat, Means emphasized, “There are a lot of things we can do with these muscles to make them more consumer friendly.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Wyoming Beef Council (WBC) held a conference call on Nov. 2 to discuss an array of audit reports including the WBC financial audit, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association audit and the U.S. Meat Export Federation audit, as well as other topics including requests for proposal reviews.

Wayne Herr, a partner of McGee, Hearne and Paize, LLP in Cheyenne, discussed the most recent audit performed on WBC, noting that the audit “went pretty straight forward.”

Standard audit

Part of the audit that McGee, Hearne and Paize, LLP performed was a standard opinion, explained Herr.

“We look at the internal control environment, the risk of fraud affecting the organization, look at changes that have occurred due to changes of activity and how those should affect the financial statement numbers. Then we go through a planning process as a result that is required to formulate a detailed audit approach,” said Herr.

The audit for WBC is performed under a cash basis of auditing. Herr explained that cash basis auditing is different from full accrual auditing, which only accepts accounting principles.

The standard opinion was unmodified, indicating that it is the opinion of the company that the financial statements of WBC are fairly presented.

“Once we’re able to complete that without any significant exceptions, we give our opinion,” he continued.

Opinions given on an audit fall into four different categories, said Herr.

“We can give four different opinions when auditing. One is good, one is okay and two are bad. The WBC audit is the good opinion,” commented Herr.

Retirement system

Herr explained that 2015 was the first year that the WBC had a new standard addressing government multi-employer retirement plans.

“The bottom line is, the standard said we need to allocate essentially the accrued pension expense,” said Herr. “This is based on what the actuaries have determined, which is the accrual underfunding of the pension plan and then allocating that liability to all of the participants.”

As the WBC is not an accrual-based auditee, the language was simply included in the report for disclosure purposes.

“This liability is not a legal obligation of the WBC. It is a legal obligation of the state’s retirement plan,” stressed Herr.

The information primarily explains how much WBC’s portion would be if the retirement plan were terminated but they had to honor all commitments made to retired and current employees, said Herr.

“It would approximately be $93,000. That’s higher than it was last year because the state’s liability has gone up to $2.3 billion, which basically represents the underfunding of the retirement plan,” he continued.

Seventy to 73 percent of the funding for the plan is based on the actuarial determination, which was lower this year.

“That dropped this year because, for years now, the state retirement plan has not been able to achieve investment earnings in line with what was predicted two or three years ago,” said Herr. “Now there’s been a major adjustment because of that lack of earning ability of those investments.”

Government audit

In addition to the standard audit requirements, the company also performed the audit to meet government auditing standards.

“We have additional audit requirements because we do this audit under government auditing standards, which are under the scheduled Government Accountability Office, and we put additional audit requirements on top of that,” said Herr.

The governmental requirements of the audit primarily evaluated legal compliance and financial reporting.

“We basically look at two areas – the internal control over financial reporting and compliance with laws, regulations, statutes and things that noncompliance would have a material effect on the financial statement,” explained Herr.

He noted that that the audit did not have anything to report under internal control over financial reporting or under compliance with other matters.

“It’s not really an opinion but more of a report. It just indicates that we did not find anything we need to bring to your attention,” said Herr.

Act compliance

“We’re also doing this audit under government auditing standards. There will be a separate report later for that, and it will indicate that we are doing this audit, particularly with concern for the Beef Promotion Research Act of 1985, as well as a certain section of the Beef Promotion and Research Order,” said Herr.

He noted that no violations were found. However, the report was changed to adopt changes made to the report by the National Beef Board.

“After we initially issued the report, the National Beef Board identified that they had changed this report and added another phrase, so we did reissue this opinion for them,” explained Herr.

The added language addressed that the audit did not identify a situation where the council failed to accurately allocate expenses that it shared with any other entity or funding source.

“The reason we didn’t have it in there to begin with is because we really didn’t think it applied. It probably doesn’t to WBC, but the National Beef Board preferred that the report follow the standard format they have in the manual, so we just added it,” continued Herr.

He stressed that the changes did not alter the results of the audit but simply brought the report into compliance with National Beef Board requests.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

With the April 24 announcement confirming that a dairy cow from central California has been infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the USDA and cattle industry have responded, ensuring consumers that the food supply is safe.
    “The carcass of the animal is being held under state authority at a rendering facility in California and will be destroyed,” said USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford in a press release. “It was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health.”
The case
    The dairy cow infected was confirmed to present a very rare form of BSE not generally associated with consumption of infected feed, according to the USDA and Clifford. This event marks the fourth case of BSE in the U.S. since 2003.
    “BSE can only be spread through contaminated feed, and in 1997 the FDA, with the full support of the beef industry, banned from cattle feed such protein supplements that could spread BSE,” said the beef checkoff. “BSE is not a contagious disease.”
    Ann Wittmann of the Wyoming Beef Council also notes that because of the strict surveillance program for BSE, the animal was identified and did not enter the human food or animal feed supply.
Safety in the food supply
    “Evidence shows that our systems and safeguards to prevent BSE are working, as are similar actions taken by countries around the world,” added Clifford. “In 2011, there were only 29 worldwide cases of BSE, a dramatic decline and 99 percent reduction since the peak in 1992 of 37,311 cases.”
    For consumers, Clifford emphasized that beef is safe, mentioning that safeguards prevent any infected material from entering the food supply. Beef advocacy groups also mention that BSE is not contagious, nor is it transferred through milk or beef.  
Market effects
    The finding will not affect the U.S.’s BSE classification through the World Organization for Animal Health, and the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) adds that it should not affect access to U.S. beef worldwide.
    Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO said, “We are already reaching out to our trade contacts around the world to reassure them that this finding is an indication that the system to safeguard the wholesomeness and safety of U.S. beef is working.”
    South Korea’s agriculture ministry official said, “We have requested details from the U.S. side, as we need to determine which necessary measures should be taken.”
    Despite stricter quarantine checks on U.S. beef imports, an official for South Korea’s agriculture ministry stressed that a formal embargo was unlikely. The country’s two largest retailers initially suspended U.S. beef sales, with one resuming sales shortly after.
    “Cases of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy occur occasionally,” Mexico’s agriculture ministry said in a statement, also noting that Mexico will continue the same inspection regimen for beef. “These cases have appeared in different places around the world and don’t affect trade between countries.”
    Canada, Taiwan, Japan and the European Union also indicated that U.S. beef would continue to be imported, according to Meatingplace. Additionally, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told Meatingplace that the case should have no bearing on talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
    “The general consensus is that international trade should not suffer any material disruption as a result of this incident,” said JBS in their statement.
On the home front
    CME Group notes that, with negative attention directed at the beef industry from lean, finely textured beef, the BSE announcement was the last thing that the beef industry needed, but added, “In the past, the demand effect of BSE outbreaks has been relatively limited.”
    “Current rules make the disease a non-event for the regular consumer but there may still be a psychological effect,” added CME Group in their April 25 report. “The effect on domestic demand at this point is unknown and unknowable.”
    Following the last case of BSE in the U.S., confirmed on March 15, 2006, beef exports in the following two months actually rose nearly 85 percent from the previous year.
    After the announcement, live cattle futures dropped the daily limit on April 24, but rebounded the following day, due to the reassurance that international exports would continue and restrictions on U.S. beef are not planned, according to Doane Agricultural Services in a CattleNetwork report.
    “The beef and dairy in the American food supply is safe and USDA remains confident in the health of U.S. cattle. The systems and safeguards in place to protect animal and human health worked as planned to identify this case quickly, and will ensure that it presents no risk to the food supply or to human health,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “USDA has no reason to believe that any other U.S. animals are currently affected, but we will remain vigilant and committed to the safeguards in place.”
    Clifford also emphasized that USDA, FDA and California animal and public health officials have begun a full investigation of the case to determine the origin and age of the cow.
    For more information on BSE, visit BSEinfo.org. Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

More about BSE
    “BSE is a progressive neurological disease among cattle that is always fatal. It belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies,” said USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford in his statement announcing the fourth BSE case in the U.S. “Affected animals may display nervousness or aggression, abnormal posture, difficulty in coordination and rising, decreased milk production, or loss of body weight despite continued appetite.
    The last case of BSE occurred March 15, 2006. However, the U.S. began taking preventative measures for BSE beginning in 1989, and, as a result of the actions, BSE is not a risk in the U.S., according to the beef checkoff.
    To further protect against BSE potential, the Food and Drug Administration banned ruminant derived protein supplements in feed in 1997, breaking the cycle of BSE, and strengthened that ban in 2008 to include removal of specified risk materials, meaning brain and spinal cord from cattle 30 months and older.
    Global BSE cases peaked in 1992 at 37,311 cases, but preventative measures have reduced numbers dramatically, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, who noted that, of the four cases seen in the U.S. since 2003, one was traced back to Canada and the other two earlier cases were the atypical form of the disease.


As consumers become increasingly tech savvy, the beef industry is following suit with its latest innovation, “Chuck Knows Beef.” 

“This new technology is being developed by the beef checkoff and is directed at the national consumer,” describes Ann Wittmann of the Wyoming Beef Council. 

“We know that the consumers’ needs haven’t really changed in the last 20 years,” Wittmann noted. “They want a safe, convenient product that is wholesome. What is changing, though, is how they’re finding that information.”

Tech focused

Where consumers used to refer to experts behind the butcher counter to answer their protein-related questions, Wittmann continued consumer behavior is changing fast, and the beef industry must be proactive. 

“Consumers are now subscribing to receive products online that they don’t have to shop for. They’re ordering dinner through online meal kits that are shipped directly to their door,” she said. “We’ve seen a change from ‘going shopping’ to ‘always shopping,’ and we need to be in their hands and in their shopping carts, whether that is online or in the store.” 

The beef checkoff’s answer is “Chuck Knows Beef.” 

Chuck Knows Beef

“Chuck is an all-knowing beef expert powered by Google artificial intelligence,” Wittmann said. “Chuck has the know-how of a rancher, the skills of a chef and the sense of humor of a dad.”

Chuck is available online or through Alexa and other in-home smart devices. 

“On our phones, we have apps. On our smart home devices, these are called skills. Chuck is a skill that can be loaded onto devices, and then we can ask him questions,” Wittmann said. 

Chuck draws on the beef checkoff’s expansive database of beef council websites to create a huge database that he draws from to answer questions, including finding recipes and answering questions about beef production.

“We can ask Chuck how beef are raised and fed. We can ask for recipes, and we can even ask what his favorite song or color is,” Wittmann commented.

Launching Chuck

Today, Chuck is in a soft launch stage where developers are working to continue training and testing Chuck to ensure he has the skills to answer consumers’ questions.

“Chuck is a baby right now. He gives some crazy answers, but we’re trying to train Chuck,” Wittmann said. “I’ve had to remind myself that Chuck is a child in the development process. We can’t get mad at kids for not knowing things.”

As he continues to learn, Chuck will also see a few other changes.

Currently, Chuck has the high, feminine voice of Alexa, but developers are working on creating a custom voice. Chuck will be one of the first skills to have its own voice.

Long term

In the big picture, Wittmann noted that state beef councils will begin reaching out to retailers to have Chuck available at the retail counter as a resource for consumers. 

“We will use an Amazon Dot packaged in a skin that looks like a hamburger,” she explained. “Consumers will be able to ask Chuck Knows Beef questions about the meat at the retail counter.”

While not in grocery stores, Chuck is available through the internet from a cell phone or computer browser. He can be launched through the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” home page. 

“Chuck has an easy guide for users to get started, too,” Wittmann commented.

Continue to grow

“As Chuck develops, he learns when we ask him questions,” Wittmann described. “We encourage beef producers to use Chuck if they have a smart device. We need as much information as we possibly can find to help Chuck get smarter and answer questions better.” 

Wittmann said the hard launch for Chuck will be in February 2019, and Oklahoma Beef Council provided funds to allow the theme song, Aaron Copeland’s Rodeo, to be utilized by Chuck. 

“Chuck is all-beef-knowing, easily accessible and powered by Google artificial intelligence,” Wittmann said. “He’s constantly learning, with a fun personality.”

She emphasized, “The ability and potential for Chuck is phenomenal.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..