Cargill To Label Ground Beef Products Containing ‘Pink Slime’ Meat

Though ground beef producers have been filling out their products for years with what is technically known as “finely textured beef,” but which is now known by the less appetizing name “pink slime,” chemically-treated beef trimmings that the industry and USDA say is harmless, but which some have labeled a “cheap substitute” and “economic fraud.” After nearly two years of stories about the stuff, one of the nation’s largest beef producers has decided to start labeling products that have been pink slimed.

Cargill has been making slime for 20 years. It treats the beef trimmings with citric acid for mixing them with the other meat. In response to a survey of thousands of consumers, Reuters reports that the company has opted to be more transparent about their products and will introduce labels next year on items that contain the finely textured beef.

Much of the pink slime debate has focused on Cargill competitor BPI, which uses ammonium hydroxide to treat its pink slime trimmings. Following a public backlash and the decision of big beef buyers like McDonald’s to stop using products that contain pink slime, BPI had to shut down several of its plants in 2012. The company is now involved in a defamation lawsuit against ABC News.

While much of the pink slime debate centered on BPI, the drop in demand did hurt Cargill, which says it is now seeking to regain the trust of consumers through more transparency.

“We’ve listened to the public, as well as our customers, and that is why today we are declaring our commitment to labeling Finely Textured Beef,” said John Keating, president of Cargill Beef.

Initially, it will just be the packages sent to retailers that are labeled with “contains Finely Textured Beef,” leaving the stores to decide whether to pass that message on to consumers. Some supermarkets, like Kroger, have already attempted to let consumers know which products are slimed and which aren’t.

Cargill says it will have labeling on direct-to-consumer products in time for next summer.

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