HISD Seeks Refund from California-Based Vendor for Pink Slime-Filled Hamburger Patties

In the aftermath of the somewhat frivolous "pink slime" scare, the Houston Independent School District wanted to make damn sure people knew it wasn't purchasing boneless lean beef trimmings (a.k.a. lean, finely textured beef) for its school lunch programs. Or, at least, HISD thought it wasn't.

HISD has since accused a California-based food supplier of breaching its contract with the district by using the so-called pink slime in hamburger patties sold to the district.

In a press release, HISD said that it found the oversight when conducting an inventory of its food supplies. The culprit? A vendor called Don Lee Farms, which supplies meat to school districts across the nation as well as to chains such as Costco, Sam's Club and Walmart.

"The district has committed to not serving LFTB and has confirmed that no suppliers of ground beef served in HISD schools use LFTB," the press release read. "HISD's bid specifications prohibit any variety meats, filler or extenders in the foods served in the district's cafeterias."

As it turns out, HISD unknowingly purchased 14,080 cases of quarter-pound charbroiled beef patties -- all of them full of LFTB -- from Don Lee Farms at a total cost of $523,776. There are only 1,045 cases left (93 percent of the original inventory has already been consumed) worth nearly $40,000 in taxpayer funds, which HISD is seeking to have refunded.

In a demand letter to Don Lee Farms written on April 10, HISD's legal office wrote:

"LFTB is not an acceptable variety meat, filler or extender for a product to be served to school children. This constitutes a breach of the agreement and demand is made for immediate pickup of the product and refund of the purchase price."

Don Lee Farms has not yet agreed to HISD's demand for a refund, and the district is considering further legal action. Meanwhile, there's still the question of what to do with the remaining 15,675 pounds of beef patties.

"HISD is attempting to get the supplier to take back the unused beef patties in exchange for a refund," said Brian Giles, HISD's senior administrator of food services, in an e-mail. "Hopefully, the supplier will take back the unused patties, but if that doesn't happen, in a worst-case scenario, we would have to discard the patties."

Don Lee Farms did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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