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AMI Releases Video Addressing Questions about the Color of Ground Beef

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Washington, D.C. --The American Meat Institute (AMI) today unveiled a new educational video about the color of ground beef found in today's meat case.  The video, featuring Betsy Booren, Ph.D., director of scientific affairs of the American Meat Institute Foundation, is the sixth installment of AMI's new "Ask the Meat Scientist" series.

The diverse choices in today's meat case generate many different questions from consumers.  Sometimes ground beef may appear red on the outside, but brown on the inside due to packaging methods. Booren explains in the video the simple explanation for this: oxygen.

"Beef comes from the muscle of an animal.  In its natural state --when it is not exposed to any oxygen --it appears purple," she notes.  "But when it is exposed to at least a 20 percent or higher oxygen level of air, the protein responsible for meat color, called `myoglobin,' is forced to bind with the oxygen present and causes the meat color to turn red.  Also, when the meat is exposed to no or less than 1 percent of oxygen gas, the meat color will change to a brownish shade."  
Many retail outlets package their ground beef on a styrofoam tray covered with plastic wrap, which is known as "overwrap packaging."  Because some oxygen is able to penetrate the plastic wrap it can make the outside of the meat appear bright red.

Booren notes in the video that some consumers ask if beef's red color comes from food coloring, but this certainly isn't the case.  "The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspects all ground beef and food coloring is not allowed to be added. Color is simply a natural interaction between beef and the oxygen in our everyday environment," she says.
To watch the short video, visit AMI's YouTube channel, The Meat News Network, at http://www.YouTube.com/MeatNewsNetwork.  
For more questions about beef color, packaging or product dates, visit http://www.meatmattersinfo.org/ to download AMI's free brochures.

AMI is the nation's oldest and largest trade association representing the U.S. meat and poultry packing and processing industry and its Foundation serves as its research, education and information arm.

Booren serves as director of scientific affairs for the Foundation.  She received her Ph.D. in food science and technology from Texas A&M University, M.S. in animal science from the University of Nebraska and a B.S. in food science from Michigan State University.

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