April 20, 2014

Cargill plans to label and use ground beef with ‘finely textured beef’ added

(Note: this story was corrected on 11/18/2013 to indicate the differences between the two finely textured beef products)

Food processing giant Cargill is announcing plans to begin labeling and marketing ground beef next year that contains the additive known as finely-textured beef or FTB. A spokesman for Cargill says FTB is similar, but not the same, as the Lean Finely Textured Beef manufactured by Beef Products Incorporated. He says both are patented processes.

Nancy Degner, executive director of the Iowa Beef Industry Council, says it’s a good move, but she isn’t sure if it will help increase consumer acceptance or sales of the product, which was the subject of controversy in 2012. “One can only tell what the consumer will choose to do but I think what the industry needs to do is be transparent and make sure that if the lean finely-textured beef is used in the product, that it’s labeled and then the consumer has the choice.”

Degner says LFTB is 100 percent lean beef trimming, which is created through a process that separates small beef pieces from fat. That adds 10 to 12 pounds of beef per carcass. “That product then is available to add to regular ground beef,” Degner says. “What that does is lower the fat content of regular ground beef. So, we’ve made the product leaner, which is an advantage for consumers, and we’ve used more of that lean muscle from the animal, being sustainable.”

ABC News was hit with a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit last year after it referred to the LFTB as “pink slime.” South Dakota-based Beef Products Incorporated claimed the TV report and the publicity that followed cost it $400-million in profits.

BPI closed three factories in 2012 that made the product, in Kansas, Texas and in Waterloo, Iowa, eliminating some 700 jobs. Only one plant remains open in South Sioux City, Nebraska.

(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)