Not too long after Dr. Donald M. Small's recipe for leaner ground beef was published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month, he started getting calls from meat processors who were interested in learning more about the technique he says can reduce cholesterol 43 percent and remove more than 70 percent of the saturated fat.
But so far nobody has expressed any serious interest, although food industry observers say it is likely that American consumers will seeproducts in the future that tout his healthier beef on the label.
"A number of food companies have contacted me, including Hormel," he said. "But I haven't had any solid bites yet. . . . We haven't heard from any fast-food companies, but we are trying to get them interested. I hope they will listen."
Marty Friedman, editor of New Product News, says it is very likely that a food processor will pick up Dr. Small's technique, saving the consumer time. But don't expect to see a spaghetti sauce touting this low-fat, lower cholesterol beef anytime soon.
"I think people are going to wait around and test it out first," Mr. Friedman said. "What people would like to do is buy a product all ready to go into a pasta sauce. I think manufacturers would also be likely to come up with this meat in convenience products such as meat sauces or chili."
This meat is perfect for promotion in the 1990s, he says, as Americans gobble up products that advertise themselves as fat-free or fat reduced.
Bob Messenger, editor of Food Business magazine, says he thinksit's feasible that the food processors will pick up Dr. Small's technique, but being low fat isn't enough. It has to taste good, too.
"Meat producers have been grabbing at any straw trying to create more nutritional meats for consumers, but in my opinion it's not working.
"What happened in Boston doesn't seem like eye-opening technology. What we need is for food processors in the 1990s to get the same level of technology for making low-fat meat that it took to put a man on the moon in the 1960s."