The meat paste known as “pink slime” can now be labeled “ground beef,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). In 2012, ABC News aired an exposé on pink slime—then called, “lean, finely textured beef (LFTB)”—that revealed its unsavory origins. South Dakota-based company Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) produces LFTB, previously only used in companion animal food, from meat trimmings left on animal bones that are mechanically separated from fat, before being ground into a thick paste. The exposé sparked public backlash when it revealed that LFTB was used as an additive (or “filler”) to bulk-up ground beef in an effort to make it cheaper. In addition, companies were not required to label their products to indicate the presence of LFTB—although it was sterilized with ammonia to kill pathogens. Despite this public outrage, the FSIS told The New Economy last week that LFTB—which BPI claims is now made differently—can be labeled as “ground beef,” stating that it “meets the regulatory definition of ground beef under the law in 9 CFR 319.15(a) and may be labeled accordingly.” By allowing BPI to use this label, FSIS is implying that the pink slime is not misleading to consumers looking to purchase ground beef.
Meanwhile, the debate around labeling standards for plant-based meat wages on. In recent weeks, lawmakers in 15 states, with support from local cattlemen’s associations, introduced legislation that would ban the use of “meat” and terms such as “beef” on vegan or cell-based products. This proposed legislation comes during a time when consumer interest in meatless products is booming and has resulted in a 22-percent increase in vegan meat sales to $1.5 billion in 2018. These proposed laws cite consumer confusion around food labels as the primary reason for barring plant-based companies from using certain terms, which presumably include the “ground beef” labels afforded to pink slime.