Safeway, SUPERVALU and Food Lion announced today that they will no longer carry what the meat industry calls "lean finely textured beef," something the public has come to know as "pink slime."
All three companies site customer concerns as one of the primary reasons for the change.
"While the USDA and food industry experts agree that lean, finely textured beef is safe and wholesome, recent news stories have caused considerable consumer concern about this product. Safeway will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean, finely textured beef," the company said in a statement.
Safeway is the second largest supermarket chain in the US. SUPERVALU, which operates Acme, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher's, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw's/Star Market, Shop 'n Save and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, is the third largest chain.
Walmart and Sam's Club also announced they would start offering beef that does not contain lean finely textured beef.
"Recently some customers have expressed concerns with lean finely textured beef (LFTB) and, while the USDA and experts agree that it is safe and nutritious, Walmart and Sam's Club will begin offering fresh ground beef that does not contain LFTB," the company said.
Walmart and Sam's Club were not alone in changing their practices. Kroger, the nation's number one grocery store, which carries beef both with and without it, said it provided a list of which beef does not contain the product to its meat departments so they can answer any questions.
"Meat departments have the list and we shared it widely on our Facebook page," the company said.
Public pressure from shoppers asking their butchers about what was in their beef and from Bettina Siegel, a mother of two, who started an online petition, which now has more than a quarter million signatures, helped spur the supermarkets to change.
Siegel commended the stores that have taken action, but is still concerned.
"It disturbs me that USDA made a decision that this filler, up to 15 percent doesn't have to be disclosed," she told ABC News. "Therefore the consumer is at the mercy of each retailer's decision."
The low-grade trimmings come from the parts of the cow most susceptible to contamination, often close to the hide, which is highly exposed to fecal matter. But because of the treatment of the trimmings — simmering them in low heat, separating fat and tissue using a centrifuge, and spraying them with ammonia gas to kill germs — the United States Department of Agriculture says it's safe to eat.
In response to our coverage, ABC News has been flooded with questions from concerned viewers about pink slime.
Many wanted to know whether it was in ground turkey or chicken, it is not. Pink slime is only being added to beef products, primarily ground beef, but it is also in some processed meats.
Viewer, Miles Herbert, wanted to know, "Is there any evidence that organic meat contains this pink slime?" It turns out there isn't. If your meat is stamped USDA Organic, it's pure meat with no filler.
Otherwise, you can't know from the packaging because pink slime does not have to appear on the label. And the USDA is giving no indication it will force meat packers to lift the veil of secrecy any time soon.