The Wendy’s Co. proactively defended its beef sourcing for its more than 6,000 restaurants in North America, running an advertisement in eight major daily newspapers Friday that said it never has used lean beef trimmings treated with ammonium hydroxide.
The mixture, commonly called “pink slime,” has been the scourge of a public awareness campaign fromJamie Oliver and others.
Wendy’s spokesman Bob Bertini said the chain began receiving questions from customers online as to whether the brand had ever sourced ammonium-hydroxide-treated beef after other quick-service chains like McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell publicly stated last month that they no longer procure beef from producers that use the product. Activists also criticized the U.S. Department of Agriculture for including ammonium-hydroxide-treated beef in as much as 6 percent of the 116 million pounds of beef used in its national school lunch program.
“Given the online conversations and questions from our consumers, we felt it was important to get the word out and set the record straight,” Bertini wrote in an email to Nation’s Restaurant News. “We wanted to make it clear that we have never used lean finely textured beef, or ‘pink slime.’ We’ve never used it because it did not meet our high quality standards.”
Among the major daily newspapers running the ad Friday were USA Today, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Miami Herald, Bertini wrote. The ad reads in part: “We’ve never used fillers, additives, preservatives, flavor boosters or ammonia treatments. We’ve never used ‘pink slime,’ and we never will.”
McDonald’s Corp. in late January was the largest restaurant brand to disclose it had ended its practice of sourcing some beef from trimmings its supplier, Beef Products Inc., had treated with ammonium hydroxide. In a statement, the company said it decided to end the use of such beef in 2011, even before the negative press given to the practice on the TV show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.”
“For a number of years prior to 2011, to assist with supply, McDonald’s USA used some lean beef trimmings treated with ammonia in our burgers,” the company wrote. “We were among other food retailers who used this safe product. At the beginning of last year, we made a decision to stop using this ingredient. It has been out of the McDonald’s USA supply chain since last August. We wanted to be consistent with our global beef supply chain, and we’re always evolving our practices.”
Last year, Taco Bell also ran full-page advertisements in major daily newspapers to defend the contents of its ingredients, specifically its recipe for seasoned beef. The campaign responded to a consumer lawsuit filed in January 2011 alleging deceptive marketing practices from Taco Bell. Even though the suit was dropped in April without any settlement from the brand, Taco Bell’s sales in the United States suffered from the negative press, with same-store sales falling 2 percent for the year.
Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s operates or franchises more than 6,500 restaurants in the United States and 27 foreign markets.