Press "Enter" to skip to content

USDA Says BPI Can Label Pink Slime as “Ground Beef”; Will SB 68 Intervene?

Our man Porter raises a meaty development. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has changed its interpretation of policy and decided that BPI can label its “Lean Finely Textured Beef”—the slaughterhouse leavings that BPI processes into an edible pink slime—as “ground beef”:

After a months-long evaluation, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) determined in December that BPI’s signature product—the offering famously called “pink slime” in an ABC News exposé that got the network in a lot of trouble—can be labeled “ground beef.” Legally speaking, it’s now no different from ordinary hamburger, and could even be sold directly to the public.

“After reviewing BPI’s submission of a new product and new production process, FSIS determined that the product meets the regulatory definition of ground beef under the law in 9 CFR 319.15(a) and may be labeled accordingly,” a FSIS spokesperson told me, in an emailed statement.

…Since 1994, the government’s stance has been clear. Lean finely textured beef (LFTB) has been a “qualified component” of hamburger, meaning it can be included in ground beef without being independently disclosed. But it could not itself be called ground beef, suggesting that, in the eyes of regulators it was something else—a padding or additive, but not the real deal [Joe Fassler, “ABC News Called It ‘Pink Slime.’ Now, USDA Says It Can Be Labeled ‘Ground Beef’,” New Food Economy, 2019.02.07].

So what once was ground beef filler will now itself be called ground beef.

In a fascinating coincidence, Senator Arthur Rusch (R-17/Vermillion) is bringing Senate Bill 68 to Senate Agriculture (and Natural Resources) tomorrow morning. SB 68 would add this language to Chapter 39-4 on Adulterated and Misbranded Foods:

A food product shall be deemed to be misbranded if the product is labeled or branded in a false, deceptive, or misleading manner that misrepresents the product as a meat food product as defined in § 39-5-6, a meat by-product as defined in § 39-5-6, or as poultry.
For the purposes of this title, the term, poultry, includes anything containing meat intended for or capable of use for human consumption, that is derived, in whole or in part, from any domesticated bird intended for human consumption [Senate Bill 68, as filed 2019.01.23].
Do you care if the “ground beef” on your bun is really ammonia-blasted butchery leftovers? Then tune in tomorrow: SB 68 is first up before Senate Ag Thursday at 10 a.m. Listen closely to the examples Senator Rusch and other supporters may offer of falsely, deceptively, or misleadingly labeled meat products that motivate Senate Bill 68, and let’s see if any of those examples provide criteria that will let us buy “ground beef” from BPI with a straight face.


  1. jerry 2019-02-13 15:00

    In Europe, when I you go to the butcher shop and I tell them that I want whatever quantity of ground beef I want. You watch them cut the beef from the slab of meat and you watch them put it into the meat grinder. They then weigh and wrap it and you go home with ground beef. I really like that. Fresh as a daisy. Meat that did not go through a centrifuge and then get scraped from the walls, not yummy.

  2. Debbo 2019-02-13 15:46

    I spent 3 years cutting up hogs in a large plant that regularly processed 3,000 +/- animals per day. I worked for a short time on the “hot side” with the carcasses the day the pig was killed, but most of my work was on the “cold side,” the day after the kill and the carcass had been chilled overnight.

    If you knew everything that went into sausage you probably would not touch it. I’m talking skin, bits of bone and gut and organs, meat with the abscess juice mostly hosed off, bits and pieces swept up from the floor.

    Those things are ground into hamburger too.

    Now imagine this: Pink slime is one step below that. I’m guessing it includes tissue that is diseased to a jelly-like condition, leavings that drip off the line, etc. Keep in mind that these are guesses, but it’s evidently tissue so nasty that it has to be treated with ammonia to kill the creepy crawlies in it.

    Good lord! 🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮

  3. Porter Lansing 2019-02-13 16:00

    Good one, Debbo. I love it when you talk like that. 😍

  4. mike from iowa 2019-02-13 16:06

    I consume several pounds of luncheon meats per month and I have noticed an ammonia smell in these products.

    I eat a bowl of Ramen noodles with a cold meat sandwich about 5 times per week since both items are relatively inexpensive and are a large part of the food I consume, while they are the least expensive items by the month.

  5. Donald Pay 2019-02-13 16:44

    I wonder what will happen to the demand for hamburger. I expect to steer clear of it unless it specifically states that they exclude pink slime. Really, you can’t count on the regulators in the Trump Administration to keep anyone safe and healthy. Our government has told us that we are on our own.

    I have to say that when the controversy bubbled up the last time our local stores put up signs saying their ground beef did not include “pink slime.” They used the words. I’ll be asking the meat guys in the stores about this, and stay away from the “pink slime.”

  6. leslie 2019-02-13 16:59

  7. Porter Lansing 2019-02-13 18:00

    @MFI. Interesting observation, about ammonia. What brands do you buy? I eat a lot less cold cuts than I used to and a whole lot less than I want to. It’s the nitrates that turn into nitrites that scare me. But, the natural nitrites (celery juice) don’t have the flavor. (e.g. uncured hot dogs and bacon)

  8. Porter Lansing 2019-02-13 18:09

    Don’s post reminds me of when the rage was to put textured vegetable protein in the hamburger, to save money of course. Like Don suggests, eventually the reputable grocers labeled meats (additive free) so you’d know which to choose. Then, regs were passed and meats HAD to be labeled, if they had soy protein additives. Then, the use of soy stopped because no one would buy it if they knew it wasn’t pure beef. Soy protein (especially in fast food burgers) was just a scam to cut overhead. When it had to be labeled and people could no longer be fooled, it stopped. I’m thinking the same will happen to this Dakota Dune Burger aka pink slime. I trust my store (Kroger) will tell us if there’s slime in the burger so you can choose quality or price. It’s visible. If there’s slime the color goes from red to a pink. Unless this new slime has some nitrites in it to make it stay red. That would really be a bad and unhealthy product, then.

  9. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-02-13 18:14

    Sinclair Lewis, “The Jungle.”

  10. mike from iowa 2019-02-13 18:33

    Porter, I stock up at Walmart the day my SS check is deposited. Walmart store brand is not as good as Oscar Mayer, but it is 20 cents a pound cheaper, already sliced and in resealable containers. At $1.78 per pound, I can buy a month’s supply for about 10 bucks and a month]s supply of Ramen costs 4 bucks. And unlike some wingnuts figure, I do not receive SNAP money.

  11. Porter Lansing 2019-02-13 19:23

    MFI … Walmart cold cuts smell like ammonia. Word. They won’t hurt you. I shop bargain brands, too. Saves money. What we rely on is that the USDA has a bottom line that everything on the market is safe, even if it’s not as flavorful or visually appealing. With this Trump Administration I’m beginning to lose faith that that bottom line is important to him, when he directs the USDA. Profit seems to rule over safety.

  12. Debbo 2019-02-13 21:28

    Ya gotta eat what you can afford. I am very grateful for local food shelves and the kind, non-judgmental folks who volunteer their time. Plus a few paid people. 😊

    CIRD, I remember the first time I read The Jungle when I was in high school. I was shocked! And sickened.

  13. Porter Lansing 2019-02-13 22:24

    This product (stem cell beef) is relatively new and it’s understandable why many are confused by it. It’s not fake meat. It’s 100% beef and completely non-gmo. No genetic modification. It’s produced from stem cells from the finest steers on the hoof. It’s begun in a host of bovine fetal syrup, so it does require some butchering. Soon a vegetable based host will be used and stem cell beef will require no butchering at all. Preliminary taste testing rates it comparable to Angus or Black WhiteFace and way, way above pink slime. Doesn’t stink like ammonia, either.
    It seems to be common in Pierre to pass a law against anything they (as an extremist conservative group) don’t fully comprehend … especially new things. Fear driven fools on a path to nowhere constructive.

  14. leslie 2019-02-14 07:12

    Did bpi win the media slander lawsuit? Previously we discussed it. The Republican legislature likely wanted to shaft them. CBS is not Fox. Will calling it pink slime here subject us to slander liability? Like mining the value of ghostbusters jobs outweighs environmental or health concerns. Frequently. No socialism in SD please. :)

  15. Dicta 2019-02-14 09:24

    The lawsuit was settled, and ABC likely paid a hefty amount to settle it.

    There is a ton of misinformation swirling around this issue, unfortunately. During the butchery process, a lot of meat is left on the bones of the animal. This is highly wasteful (not to mention it leads to needing to raise and kill more cows to make the same amount of food, a big consideration given their role in global warming). BPI just used a centrifuge process to strip that meat from the bones. Yes, this process left the meat with a slimy texture, BUT IT IS BEEF, GUYS. The ammonia is applied to kill any items that could cause foodborne illness. The amount of water/ammonia mixture sprayed has never been shown in any study to have negative health effects on people, either.

    What’s weird to me is that people are ignoring when ABC, in the middle of a struggling sweeps week, comes out with a sensationalist story calling a safe beef product ‘pink slime’ and ‘economic fraud’ and everyone just laps it up, as though ABC isn’t a gigantic multi-national corporation with its own money to make.

  16. mike from iowa 2019-02-14 09:38

    Disney reportedly paid 177 million to BPI to settle the suit. Whether ammonia and pink slime is good for you or you even want it, should be left up to the customer.

  17. Porter Lansing 2019-02-14 10:10

    Dicta is wrong. Does anyone actually think a beef processing plant wastes meat? C’mon, man. The meat left on the bones was removed by boiling or steam, processed into a malleable state and sold for canned dog food or dried to a powder. Spraying it down with anhydrous ammonia first, to make is pass the health code (which Trump Administration has lowered dangerously) and making more money by sneaking it into hamburger is what is happening. This was all fine, as long as the hamburger was labeled as containing this filler. BPI donated $160,000 as a corporation and a lot more as a meat industry PAC and got the regulation dropped. Now, it’ll be snuck into your hamburger but not past your nose and taste buds.
    *Not that it matters but I’m a hamburger expert. I was USA Nat’l Hamburger Cookoff Champion in 1995, have devoted my career to culinary study from the farm to the restaurant and am a retired chef.

  18. jerry 2019-02-14 12:38

    Those Europeans want quality for their consumption and so do the Canadians. Only in America will we eat crap that is tossed against the wall. “The product is not allowed in Canada due to the presence of ammonia, and is banned for human consumption in the European Union. Some consumer advocacy groups have promoted the elimination of the product or for mandatory disclosure of additives in beef, while others have expressed concerns about plant closures that occurred after the product received significant news media coverage.” Let’s face it, we will eat anything with corn syrup or some other additive. Right now we have the mass killings of male chicks, over a billion a year, that goes into rendering for all sorts of goodies, yum yum. “Male chicks are considered an unwanted byproduct of egg production and are killed and disposed of shortly after birth. Male chicks are killed for two reasons: they cannot lay eggs and they are not suitable for chicken-meat production.”

  19. leslie 2019-02-14 12:55

    Funny. Sensationalist story? USDA coined the phrase in 2002. Do elements of defamation require intent? Was deep pocket ABC a bad actor? Wasn’t it consumer fascination with charnelhouse conveyors over railroad tracks to massive windowless concrete buildings where paste, goo or slime is sprayed pink (citation needed), frozen and boxed? Filthy fecal covered obese grain fattened penned cattle go in. Across the tracks boxes of frozen pink slime come out. The buying public knows beef is easily contaminated. They know labeling can be gamed by deep pocket food products manufacturers who contribute to nationwide obesity. 50% of us have heart disease. In 2012, ABC reported it. Or did ratings matter Dicta? Republicans are good at messeging.

  20. Donald Pay 2019-02-14 13:16

    Apparently, the meat industry is forcing us all to be “politically correct.” I can’t go for that. Just put on the label what you are trying to sell me. I’ll take it from there. Don’t try to hide it by claiming that pink slime is ground beef. It ain’t. Don’t put on any fancy euphemisms for what it is you want me to eat, either. If it’s pink slime, be proud to say, “This product includes ground beef (95%) and pink slime (5%).” I’ll decide from there. If you gotta have a fancy name, it’s likely I’m not going to want to eat that either. I’ll have to look it up, and you’ll just be wasting my time.

    Porter mentions “stem cell beef,” and my daughter in Beijing says that could be the next big thing. There’s a lot of people trying to figure how to scale this up from lab to industrial operations. It is beef, without the waste and the grazing. But I’m not sure how it tastes.

  21. Debbo 2019-02-14 14:01

    I’ve heard a lot about lab grown beef too. From what I’ve seen and heard, in addition to scaling the process up cost effectively, there’s also an appearance issue that needs to be worked on. I too understand that taste is not an issue. It is real beef, real beef DNA, just grown differently.

    They will grow hamburger, steak and roasts. There will be no pink slime.

  22. Debbo 2019-02-15 02:32

    Pink slime in action. Here’s a totally repulsive video of a guy trying to cook “hamburger” that was mostly water and likely pink slime. Ugh.

  23. mike from iowa 2019-02-15 07:07

    Debbo’s video is suitable for Halloween.

  24. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-17 12:02

    Dicta, it was certainly protein and fat from a bovine, but is “ground” really the proper adjective for that “beef”?

  25. Debbo 2019-03-03 15:28

    Here is what “pink slime” does to humans:
    “14 percent higher risk of early death for each 10 percent increase of ultra-processed foods consumed.“

    This info comes from a study published in JAMA International.

    ” They defined ultra-processed foods as those ‘manufactured industrially from multiple ingredients that usually include additives used for technological and/or cosmetic purposes,’ the authors wrote. ‘Ultraprocessed foods are mostly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts, or ready-to-eat or -heat meals.’ ”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.