*Ask a Butcher* Black hair in tripe??

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Question:
“Hi everyone! I am new here and really don’t know much about meat cutting (although my grandfather was a butcher!) but I have a question about tripe.

I bought some tripe from the grocery store and when I cooked it (boiled for 3 hours to make a Bulgarian soup) it had black hair ALL in it! It wasn’t noticeable before when I put it in…I washed it pretty thoroughly but I didn’t scrutinize it. But it was obvious when I pulled it out after cooking. I looked this up but there wasn’t anything about it other than it does happen. No reason as to why or where it comes from and if you should eat it. Is it in every tripe? Do any of you know anything about this? I would really appreciate any info you may have! Thank you so much “

The Butcher’s Answer:
Hi Scorpion and welcome to The Club and thanks for this great question! What you found in the tripe is a little unusual but does happen. It is what all cat owners know about and have to deal with; “hair balls”. Yep, cows get them too! Unlike cats cows can’t regurgitate the balls so they remain in the stomach and are found after the animal is dead. Cows have a real coarse tongue and they lick themselves. Some hair balls get really big. I remember back in 1994 in Holcomb Kansas at a IBP plant they found a hairball that was 36 inches in diameter. Generally speaking when the paunch is opened up workers use high pressure hot water to wash the paunch material out of the stomach where many small hairballs are removed before the tripe gets put into large scalding vats.

In your case it looks like they missed it and that in itself is very troubling to me. My suggestion is that you take a sample of the tripe and take it back to where you bought it and let them know about it because that tripe should not have been missed by in house QA or FSIS. Now there is one more serious issue regarding your example and I am not saying that this was intentionally done. I would say that what you have is simply a piece of tripe that got buy inspection. However, many meat packers depending on the value that they can get selling fresh cleaned tripe vs. un-scalded tripe (pet food tripe) will sometimes switch production to washed tripe for pet food. It is then boxed in waxed line boxes and blast frozen. If by some reason a box of this tripe got diverted to edible tripe then that is a serious issue.

There has to be a big spread between the value of inedible tripe vs. edible tripe because the cost to process edible tripe is so much greater. So when the spread isn’t there packers will go to inedible or possibly render it.

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