"Pink slime" ire has hurt beef demand: Tyson exec

Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:06pm EDT

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(Reuters) - The controversy over the ground beef filler dubbed "pink slime" has hurt U.S. ground beef demand, a Tyson Foods Inc executive said on Tuesday.

Heightened awareness and debate over the product, which the industry calls lean finely textured beef, has "put a fair amount of pressure on ground beef consumption," Tyson Chief Operating Officer Jim Lochner said during a presentation at an investor conference hosted by Morgan Stanley.

Concern over the filler, made from scraps of beef sprayed with an ammonia gas to kill any bacteria, has prompted major grocers and fast-food chains, from Wal-Mart Stores Inc to McDonald's Corp, to stop buying ground beef made with it.

"In the short run, the negative publicity, I do believe, had an impact negatively on ground beef demand, which will recover, I think, quite quickly," said Lochner, according to a transcript of the presentation.

"When you look at it, it was really a two-week event," he said.

Tyson is the largest meat processor in the United States.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Gary Hill)

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