USDA: ‘Pink slime’ can now be called ground beef

A finely textured beef product that critics dubbed “pink slime,” can now legally be classified as ground beef, WGBH reports. 

In 2012, ABC News aired an exposé that first introduced “pink slime” to the public. The report claimed “pink slime” was present in 70 percent of ground beef sold in supermarkets but was not labeled.  After the report aired, a number of grocery stores stopped carrying the product. South Dakota meat producer Beef Products Inc. said they had to close three plants and lay off roughly 700 workers as a result of the report. They sued ABC News in 2012 for defamation, saying the network’s coverage misled consumers. The lawsuit was settled in 2017 for $177 million, according to Quartz

“Pink slime” is made from leftover beef trimmings that have been separated, cured and freeze-dried into blocks to be added to ground beef by processors.  It’s been around since 1994 and was classified as an acceptable additive or filler to ground beef. But advancements in meat processing now allow for more of the cow to be processed. 

“We can take 100 percent of our lean ground beef and produce a patty out of it and do a taste panel against other commercially available ground beef,” Craig Letch, director of sales told the Washington Times. “We demonstrated there was no difference.”

The USDA’s reclassification of the product was based on a review of the company’s processing and production facility in Dakota City, Nebraska.

A USDA representative told the newspaper that the agency still recognizes “lean finely textured beef” as a category, but that label no longer applies to “pink slime.”