Government Could Save Millions by Revising Its Purchase Specification for Ground Beef

RCED-84-29: Published: Feb 21, 1984. Publicly Released: Feb 21, 1984.

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The major federal agencies that buy ground beef require that the product meet certain formulation and certification specifications, some of these specifications increase the material costs and restrict the flexibility of suppliers without increasing the quality, flavor, or nutritional value of the meat. GAO reviewed this matter to determine whether the federal government could buy ground beef at a lower cost.

Ground beef suppliers and meat experts told GAO that, despite the Government's formulation and certification requirements for its meat purchasing, the commercial product, which accounts for more than 95 percent of U.S. ground beef production, is adequate for the government's use. Commercial customers rely on the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to ensure the quality of their meat products. The government could have saved about $20 million of the $181 million it spent for ground beef in fiscal year 1982 if it had purchased commercial ground beef. Further, if the responsibility for product quality assurance were transferred to FSIS, at least 2 cents per pound could be saved by eliminating some duplication in the certification process.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should modify the federal purchase specification for ground beef to enable the government to purchase ground beef more economically.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture


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