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ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Wegmans Food Markets has said it will begin selling irradiated fresh ground beef in all its stores by mid-May, making it the first supermarket chain to introduce irradiated beef under a private label.
The irradiated fresh ground beef is packaged in one- and three-pound rolls, clearly marked and easily distinguished from traditional fresh ground beef, which Wegmans will also continue to sell.
"For several years, we've been teaching that the only way to be sure of killing harmful bacteria is to cook ground beef to 160 degrees and take its temperature," said Danny Wegman, president of the company. "That is still our advice for customers who buy ordinary fresh ground beef. However, we've worked for years to bring a safer alternative to market, and we believe our new, irradiated fresh ground beef is the right answer."
Wegmans released an overview of how its irradiated beef is processed. First, the supplier trims the meat to Wegmans' specifications. Beef carcasses are cleaned, washed, and steam-pasteurized before the meat is ground and packed.
Then the ground meat is packed in tightly sealed packages, which Wegmans calls "rolls", and shipped under refrigeration to a facility in Chicago, where the rolls are irradiated with the SureBeam process.
The irradiated rolls are then shipped under refrigeration to Wegmans stores.
The airtight packaging prevents cross-contamination, and also extends freshness, according to Wegmans. This means the beef can be kept in the refrigerator longer without needing to freeze it. The company notes that when first opened, the beef has a natural darker color. However, once open and exposed to air, it turns to the standard bright cherry red color.
The irradiated ground beef will be available in 90/10 (90 percent lean/10 percent fat) and 80/20 packages and will sell for between 10 to 30 cents a pound more than ordinary fresh ground beef.