The increase of meat-intense diets, like paleo and keto, are rekindling America's love for meat. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), people are projected to eat a record setting amount this year. The projection from USDA is that each of us will eat more than 222 pounds of red meat and poultry this year.
In South Carolina, the Department of Agriculture has its own lab to test the quality of meats sold in our grocery stores.
Inspectors deliver some 25 meat samples weekly from across the state to the SCDA lab in Columbia. The scientists at the lab test fat and moisture content and check for any fillers, preservatives, or contamination in the meat.
“We verify that the label claims are correct,” Derek Underwood explains. He oversees the operation as the Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture.
The tastiest cuts of beef are often the ones with more fat. But when you're concerned about your health or you're trying to watch your weight, you may look for the leanest cuts of beef. Often they are more expensive.
Through a records request, News 2 obtained violations written for the last three years in the Berkeley, Dorchester, and Charleston County region. During that time, SCDA inspectors cited seven grocery stores for not meeting the label guarantee on meats.
In all, 31 samples contained more fat than advertised. The failed samples included ground beef and turkey, chicken, and bison. Underwood says it’s not a problem he believes is a willful violation.
“Willful means they are trying to take advantage of the consumer for profit,” he explained. “Most of this is just done through carelessness.”
Of those seven grocery store chains cited, the top three violators included Harris Teeter and Food Lion with six failed tests each. Publix failed the most in the three year span. They were cited eight times.
Multiple requests to Publix for comment went unanswered.
Along with ground meat, frozen desserts and cereal grain are also tested regularly in what Underwood calls a basket survey.
“Today an inspector may pull ice cream samples,” he explained. On subsequent trips, inspectors would pull produce samples or meat.
“The market basket survey is trying to simulate what the consumer would buy,” he elaborated.
Health experts caution shoppers to read labels and understand what you’re buying. For example, if you’re buying pre-made patties, they are allowed to have fillers that ground meat isn’t, by law, allowed to contain.
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