LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Sales of a treated ground beef product that critics derisively dubbed “pink slime” have rebounded, according to two of its manufacturers.
Spokesmen for Cargill and Beef Products Inc. confirmed that sales of the product, which the industry refers to as “lean, finely textured beef,” have risen. But Cargill told the Lincoln Journal Star that sales haven’t rebounded to the level they were before a 2012 controversy about the meat.
The product, which is added as a low-cost ingredient to ground beef, is made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. The bits are heated to about 100 F and spun to remove most of the fat. The lean mix then is compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product also is exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas or citric acid to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella.
The phrase “pink slime,” coined by a federal microbiologist, has appeared in the media at least since a critical 2009 New York Times report.
BPI sued ABC News and others in September 2012, alleging the network’s reporting about the product earlier that year damaged BPI by misleading consumers into believing it was unhealthy and unsafe. BPI said the sales drop forced it to close plants in Waterloo, Iowa; Garden City, Kansas; and Amarillo, Texas; laying off more than 700 workers. Only a Nebraska plant in South Sioux City remained open.
Attorneys for ABC have said the network in each of its broadcasts stated the U.S. Department of Agriculture deemed the product safe to eat.