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Ground Beef In A Tube

By pops6927, Sep 17, 2014 | | |
  1. I am sure most of us has seen the tubes of ground beef in meat display cases - 1 lb, 3 lb. 5 lb. even 10 lb. with varying "grind mix" labels of 73/27, 80/20, 85/15, 93/07, etc.  What the heck are they?  Is it monkey meat?  Or garbage crap?  That often comes to mind to those that don't know.  But, I will explain!

    I had the good fortune to go to Moyer Meat Processing Plant outside Pittsburgh to see all the meat operations performed, from standing cattle to finished cuts and ground meats.  I was a meat manager and our director took us all (about 60 of us) on a field trip from Norwich, NY to Pa, Moyer Packing Plant.  Before we could enter, anyone with a cold could not enter.  Then, we were led to the sanitation room where we all had to remove our outer clothes and put on hospital like paper scrubs (disposable) from hats to masks to shoe booties, tops and pants.  Then, we were led through the plant, witnessing the kill floor, skinning, halving, going through a nitrogen cooler to remove body heat quickly, quartering into fores and hinds, then processing.  All controlled by moving belts carrying the various parts and products through the processing stages.  All trim separated into pallet-sized bins.  All the workers were dressed even more so.  The plant stopped operations every 7 hours, requiring a complete tear-down and sanitation cycle with separate crews, 3 times a day.  Bacteria was the no. 1 enemy!  They maintained at least a 99.5% degree of total sanitation bacteria-free!  Absolutely amazing!

    No meat room had that degree of sanitation, by a long shot.  Cross contamination was common, high production requirements forced employees to take shortcuts, and so on.

    The primary purpose of this Article is to explain one of the end processes of meat processing, the grinding process.  All trim is delivered in pallet-sized containers about 5 ft tall.  They are then 'core-sampled', the cores put through a fat analyzer, then lean local beef is added to the mix to derive whatever grind mix is desired (see above).  Then, by fork lift, the meat is dumped into a giant grinder as big as a house and ground once, then it flows into another grinder below it and ground a second time, then it goes into a packaging machine that stuffs the ground meat into the 1, 3, 5, and 10 lb. tubes, right into boxes, sealed, put through a nitrogen cooler and onto trucks and tractor trailers that roar out of the plant 24/7!  This is how they are able to assign a 45 day shelf-life code vs. store-ground meat with a 1 day in-store shelf life!   Bacteria levels are so low they are almost non-existent in plant made ground meats, whereas in store ground meats bacteria from many sources flourish.

    I have been brought up in meat rooms and have seen just about all the 'bad' things done that end up in grinds.  The weekends are the worst, no inspectors come into the stores to confiscate samples to test on weekends.  I have seen rotten lamb, pork, veal and chicken added to grinds, grinds pulled from being dark, frozen, then sawed up into frozen sticks to add to fresh meat and reused, pigs blood added to grinds to 'freshen' them, spit and drool commonly mixed in, to say nothing of many 'nastier' things added intentionally.  When you buy store-ground meats, you're risking your health on the integrity of the worker, of dubious scruples.

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  1. denton2221
    Wow! I will definitely not be buying in-store ground beef again.  Next time I will get the tubes instead, especially if they come from the Moyer plant.
  2. bear55
    Very interesting article, thanks.
  3. whatspapasmokin
    I always use the Tubes when I made my sausage and smoke it.
  4. floridasteve
    I real eye-opener, but it makes perfect sense!
  5. andypanda
    My wife always has the "monkey meat" attitude toward the "tubed" ground beef packs. I worked in a restaurant when I was younger and we used the 5lb tubed pack so I was never concerned. This is an interesting article I plan to fwd on to the better half to increase understanding. Thanks!
  6. sharryn
    Thanks for this article.  I always thought the tubes were like "seconds".  Like the bits and pieces that didn't go anywhere else were just thrown into the mix.  I have a much better appreciation of the tubes now, that's for sure!
  7. hawkwardhunter
    An eye opener for me and a good reason to buy the tubes if what you want is available.  Freshness and safety is key!
  8. deepsea
    I use this meat all the time, but have looked upon it as dubious at best.  I fully expected this article to be against tube meat and began it with that thought process.  Thank you for a well written and informative article.
  9. sigmo
    I had seen a TV show where they explained the same things about the factory "tubed" ground beef.  Yet there does seem to be a stigma attached to it.  People assume it's worse, somehow, than the ground beef ground and packed right in the store.  But it makes perfect sense that a big, purpose-built and run operation should be able to produce a safer, more consistent and clean product than a small butcher shop that does everything all in that one small area.
    I bought one of the 5 lb tubes a few weeks ago to make tacos for the family as well as a batch of chile later.  My son, who was a firefighter and paramedic for a number of years told a story of how he bought a batch of the tubed ground beef for his rotation cooking for the firehouse one time, and he caught a LOT of grief over it.  All of the fire fighters felt that it was second-rate meat, and they had an amusing (but not family-forum-friendly) term for the stuff.  He said they wouldn't let him get/use the stuff ever again.
    It's ironic, because it's probably as good or better quality, and certainly more sanitary and safe than the "house packed" ground beef.  But it's often less expensive, and people go by that.  Of course, an enormous operation can produce it with a lot less labor cost due to the huge volumes involved and the degree of specialization and automation of the process and equipment.
    But it's a hard-sell to most people.  Part of it may also be the opaque containers.  People probably feel that the manufacturer is hiding something.
    Good article.  I need to forward a link to it to my son.
  10. SonnyE
    I'm going to read this to my wife. Thank You Pops for sharing this!
    She brought me home some 'In Store Ground" beef last week, which I carefully repackage into 1 pound packages for freezing.
    I will say it appeared fresh all the way through, but I know paint added can fool me. (Yes, I know they open packages, paint them red, and repackage them.)
    It makes sense to me that "Tube Meat" should be a bit safer than foam tray cellophane wrapped store grinds.
    But something I noticed with 2 pounds of the Store Ground, it was supposed to be 93/7 lean ground beef. I doubt it was.

    When prepping it to make squirt Jerky (My skat jerky) I was rather dismayed at the fat and water extruding from it as I pumped out turds in my dehydrator racks.
    Couple that with the unknowns of the dubious butcher I spoke with once, and who needed an interpreter to answer my questions... well, lets just say I think slaughtering a steer in the pasture would be safer. The only saving grace is to incinerate it enough to kill anything in it.

    It is sad, and only going to get worse, that we are so numb and dumb to what we shove into our faces. A bag of Soylient Green comes out a window and we happily munch away.
    No wonder we are ticking time bombs of walking heart attacks, and the IQ per capita is alarmingly falling like a stone. While crime rises, and cancers consume us.

    I believe I will request she only by the frozen, 1 pound, individually packaged, 5 tube bags henceforth.
    I don't have to handle it until ready to use it. It is sanitary wrapped and frozen until opened.
    And comes from less dubious (or at least blind) sources.

    And lookit here, Pops, you are near the top in this search.