Beware men bearing cheap meat

 Willy Loman’s got some competition in Minneapolis.

Steve Jewell was recently offered discount steaks and chops by a salesman going door-to-door in his Minneapolis neighborhood. The frozen, vacuum-packed meat came in an unlabeled box. The salesman said he was at the end of his shift, so he was offering the meat at cost.

Jewell told the Star Tribune, "I don’t want a ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy when I’m buying meat. I don’t care how cheap it is."

Dave Read, director of dairy and food inspection at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) said that as the weather heats up, Twin Cities residents can expect to see more meat vendors plying the streets.

That has Read and other food safety experts concerned that the promise of bargain-priced meats may to be too tempting to resist.

Established door-to-door sellers, such as Schwan’s and the Iowa Steak Company, are licensed, inspected and clearly identifiable. But many others, who may be unlicensed, are selling unmarked meat from the back of a pickup truck. They’re pitching rock-bottom prices, but lingering questions about the source, quality and safety of the meat they’re offering remain.

These sellers often can be identified by the urgency in their pitch, said Read.

"They’re at the end of their shift, their truck has broken down, or they have some unsold meat from their restaurant sales route. We’ve heard ’em all," said Read. And, despite what these sellers may claim, "meat supply companies don’t sell unsold inventories door-to-door," Read added.

In the Twin Cities, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is currently investigating eight companies selling meat door-to-door. Complaints have ranged from poor meat quality to salesmen not having appropriate permits to the seller not standing behind its satisfaction guarantee, said Dana Badgerow, BBB president.