Store-bought Meats Dosed to Look Red

The newer the redder, brown is an elderly hue, which of these steaks looks fresher to you?

It’s a trick questions as both were bought on the same date but one was dosed with carbon monoxide (CO), a technique that’s angering consumer advocacy groups.

Supermarkets are trimming out their in-store butchers and buying pre-packaged cuts direct from the processing plants. The increasingly widespread use of “modified atmosphere packaging” replaces the oxygen inside with other gases, especially CO. Doing so makes the meat rosier.

Customers buy meat mainly on how it looks. Better looking meat has a longer purchasability.

Among the bigger supermarkets reported to carry the treated meat are Safeway, SuperTarget, and Walmart. In some of the Walmart packages one finds ground plastic shards which after being pieced together read, “Hello! My name is Fran! How may I help you?”

“Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, says one study found that when meat in modified packages that included carbon monoxide was stored at 10 degrees above the proper temperature, salmonella grew more easily.”

Read more:

FDA Is Urged to Ban Carbon-Monoxide-Treated Meat [Washington Post]
Which Cut Is Older? (It’s a Trick Question) [New York Times] (Thanks to Sara!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. SamC says:

    Glad I’m a vegetarian then. :p

  2. Jeremy says:

    Yuck. Just yuck, man.

  3. The Unicorn says:

    Oh, so *that* explains why meat turns brown after it’s been in the freezer for awhile. I freaked out (and called my mom, of course, my go-to consultant for the edibility of food items) a few months ago because a beautiful steak I’d bought had completely changed color by the time it defrosted.

  4. AcidReign says:

    …..If at all possible, try to go to the grocery store ON steak-cooking day, or at worst, the day before. Freezing monks up a lot of the flavor of beef, although I’ve had decent luck freezing whole eyes of round in those hermetically sealed bags….

  5. Ben Popken says:

    Bifyu writes: The use of carbon monoxide to doctor the appearance
    of meat has been in use for years by some sellers of frozen tuna intended
    for sushi and sashimi. Here’s an article from 1998 describing the practice: