NEW YORK (AP) — Cargill Inc. says it will start labeling beef products that contain finely textured beef, an ingredient that came under attack as “pink slime.”
The meat company says the new packages will appear before next year’s grilling season and is in response to consumer demand. It says packages will note when a product “Contains Finely Textured Beef.”
Finely textured beef is made of fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts that are treated to kill bacteria. The filler had been used for decades in the U.S. but started to gain negative attention after a New York Times article in 2009, in which a federal microbiologist referred to it as “pink slime.”
Cargill is the largest producer of ground beef in the world, supplying restaurants and packaged food companies. The company’s branded beef products sold in retail outlets such as supermarkets accounts for less than 10 percent of its ground beef business, said Michael Martin, a company spokesman.
It also supplies meat to supermarkets, which then package the meat themselves. In those cases, it would be up to the retailer to label whether the products contain finely textured beef.
Before the use of finely textured beef became a controversial issue, Martin said Cargill processed about 200 million pounds of the ingredient each year. That volume sank by about 80 percent after the public outcry prompted retailers to ask Cargill to provide meat without it.
Since then, however, the issue has faded and Martin said volume is back up to about 50 percent.
He said the vast majority of finely textured beef was produced by Cargill and Beef Products Inc. That company, based in South Dakota, last year announced it was closing three plants as a result of the public outcry. A representative for BPI wasn’t immediately available for comment.
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