Michael Landrum, the man who put the meat into the Ray’s mini-empire, has never been shy about telling the world about the superiority of his beef. The New York Times‘ investigation of the commercial ground-beef industry gave him another chance to do more of the same.
Landrum responded to three of the four questions posed by Y&H in the wake of the investigation. I asked Landrum — and BGR’s Mark Bucher before him — to try to alleviate public fears by explaining the differences between commercial ground beef and their ground beef.
Y&H: What was your overall impression of the Times‘ piece and what do you think it will mean for ground beef and burger sales in the future?
Landrum: Didn’t see the piece, so I can’t comment on question 1.
Y&H: How can you alleviate the fears of diners who worry now that ground beef will be contaminated with E. coli?
Landrum: I will say that consumers, if they have any health or safety concerns, should avoid all commercially produced ground beef and all processed beef products that come from centralized packing plants. The beef that goes into commercially ground beef is basically scraps off the floor or otherwise inedible and unusable parts and cuts of meat, regardless of how it is labeled — e.g. 100% Angus, 100% Sirloin, 100% Chuck, etc. This goes for all fast food chains, including the small local ones, which receive their burgers pre-pattied or their beef pre-ground. The grounds for fear, overall, are very real.
Y&H: Where do you source your beef and do you grind the meat yourself or have it ground for you?
Landrum: We use only whole muscle cuts which undergo no processing at the plant from farm-raised steer. Additionally, we hand trim all of the external surfaces from these whole muscle cuts to our exacting standards for not only safety, but for quality and taste as well. Not only do we grind in-house, we grind in small batches with complete washing and sterilization of the equipment between batches to eliminate risk. These batches are then tagged and kept separate one from the other with no carryover between batches to insure total quality control.
Y&H: Will you continue to offer rare, medium-rare and other hamburgers that do not reach the USDA-recommended temperature of 160 degrees?
Landrum: That being the case, we are completely confident in being able to continue to serve burgers prepared to order to the desired degree of doneness with no qualms or worries whatsoever. In fact, I eat 3-4 rare/medium rare burgers myself each week and regularly sample raw beef direct from the grinder throughout the day.