BPI, maker of Lean Finely Textured Beef or "pink slime," as critics call it, is bowing to consumer pressure and endorsing a huge move by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - the voluntary labeling of LFTB.
The government is telling producers that USDA inspectors will certify labels such as "Contains Lean Finely Textured Beef," "Contains Finely Textured Beef," or "Contains Lean Beef Derived from Beef Trimmings," and stamp them with USDA approval.
Patty Lovera of Food and Water Watch says the government is sending a message to consumers and the meat industry.
"USDA is trying to kind of split the baby," Lover says. "They don't require it and offend the industry, but they realize there's a public relations problem and people are outraged about this."
BPI, the maker of LFTB, released a statement today saying it has signed on to the USDA labeling move.
"While ground beef is a single ingredient product (beef) and lean finely textured beef therefore is not required to be listed separately on any label, we believe USDA's decision to allow companies to voluntarily include information on their label regarding LFTB content will be an important first step in restoring consumer confidence in their ground beef," the statement said. "Based upon the numerous taste panel studies conducted using BPI's lean beef and strong consumer preference for ground beef that contains our LFTB, we feel this development will allow more customers to provide options to consumers and pave the way for BPI's lean beef to reestablish its place in the market."
The American Meat Institute says the reversal is understandable.
"If you think about everything the company has been subjected to and what I would characterize as, with all due respect, a campaign of misinformation, you can't blame a company for trying to save itself and make sure that employees don't lose their jobs," AMI spokesman Mark Dopp said.
Cargill, one of the nation's largest ground beef producers today asked the USDA for permission to give it the option to label its ground beef as containing a similar filler. At the same time, companies that dont use LFTB have asked permission to label, too, with terms like "excludes finely textured beef" and "made without finely textured beef."
"This is an excellent outcome in giving consumers a choice," Bettina Siegel, a blogger at the Lunch Tray website and a mother of two who started a petition calling for full disclosure in ground beef said today. "A good first step, but USDA should not leave labeling voluntary."
Since the first of the year, McDonalds and other fast food stores have dropped LFTB, the USDA has identified which products contain the filler for school districts, grocery stores have pulled it from shelves, and now - for the first time - what is inside the beef will be labeled on the outside.