USDA Reclassifies “Pink Slime” as “Ground Beef”

“Pink slime” — a meat filler outlawed in Canada and Europe — can now be labeled “ground beef” in the U.S.

The beef additive infamously dubbed “pink slime” is now legally considered to be the same thing as “ground beef,” and can be labeled as such.

The USDA approved the meat industry’s request for the reclassification at the end of last year, but the news didn’t get out about it until this week.

Formerly referred to as lean finely textured beef, “pink slime” is a meat by-product used as a filler in processed beef products. In addition to adding bulk, it also helped reduce the overall fat content in ground beef.

The only trouble is, it’s not beef, according to a USDA whistle-blower.

In 1990, the USDA approved the technology for manufacturing “finely textured meat,” which involves high heat, a centrifuge that separates the “meat” from the fat in beef trimmings. and a dousing in ammonia.

At the time, the USDA called the remaining product “meat,” but one microbiologist for the agency dissented, arguing it contained connective tissue and sometimes even highly infectious central nervous system tissue, scraped from the bones.

A 2012 ABC News series exposed the secretive industry practice and cost the biggest producer of the product — Beef Products Inc. — millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Until then, “pink slime” was hiding in up to 70 percent of ground beef in the country. Since then, MacDonald’s and dozens of other companies banished products containing “lean finely textured beef.”  the federal School Lunch Program created the ability for schools to opt out of “pink slime.”

Because of this, Beef Products Inc. sued ABC for nearly $2 billion and settled for $177 million, the largest amount ever paid in a media defamation case.

And now, thanks to the new classification as “ground beef,” BPI will never have to disclose the additive as an additive. If you want to ensure you’re not getting “ground beef” in your “ground beef,” you’ll have to grind it yourself.

“Pink slime” is banned for human consumption in the European Union and Canada due to the presence of ammonia, which is used to kill bacteria in the highly contaminated connective tissue.