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article imageOp-Ed: USDA agrees to labeling for 'pink slime', optional for beef firms

By Leigh Goessl     Apr 4, 2012 in Food
As the clash over 'pink slime' continues, some meat producers asked the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture for the ability to label packages of beef treated with ammonia, also known as lean finely textured beef (LFTB) or "pink slime".
Since the debate over the so-called "pink slime" has reignited in recent months, transparency in labels has been one of the issues associated with the meat byproduct that is legal in the U.S., but banned in other nations, such as the U.K.
According to MSNBC, USDA officials are agreeing to allow meat producers to label the ground beef products that contain LFTB. In this respect it appears some beef producers are maybe looking to provide the transparency consumers seek, and to also better secure their own futures.
The USDA agreement to allow labeling of LFTB was first reported on Meatingplace.com, a meat industry website, according to media sources.
At this time, U.S. agriculture officials have not disclosed any company names, but the agency has confirmed many "voluntary requests" have been received from several beef companies to change their labels to denote products that include LFTB.
“Several companies have chosen to voluntarily pursue a new claim on their product labels that will allow them to clarify the use of Lean Finely Textured Beef. USDA has received this type of application for the first time through the normal label approval process and the department has determined that such requests will be approved,” USDA spokesman Aaron Lavallee told Meatingplace.
“By exercising this existing option, these companies can continue to provide a lean, safe and nutritious product to an informed customer base.”
Labeling is a primary consideration and, while some consumers will still likely turn their noses up to ground beef that contains the ammonia-treated filler, at least there will be somewhat of an informed choice involved for consumers when purchasing beef products.
Bettina Elias Siegel, author of the blog “The Lunch Tray,” told MSNBC “If the product had been labeled from the start, I doubt we’d see anything like the consumer backlash that the media has stirred up in the past few weeks."
And a divisive issue it has been. Food advocates and consumers have been angry over the product, while many government officials and the beef companies are still assuring the meat filler is a safe additive. Many consumers strongly feel they should have the right to choose whether or not to purchase products containing the LFTB.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Building
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Building
Aside from the political fallout and consumer outrage, recently, one of the primary producers of LFTB, Beef Products Inc. (BPI) closed down 3 of its 4 factories. Another company, AFA Foods, filed bankruptcy. These events occurred after grocery stores, fast food chains and other customers jumped ship in response to customer demand for no 'pink slime' in their meats.
Based on the voluntary nature of the request and the impact the backlash has had on business, it appears as if companies are responding to consumer demands in this respect, meaning the free market is doing its job.
In light of recent developments, from all appearances consumers will have the choice, to some degree, in the near future of whether or not to purchase products containing 'pink slime.' Whether or not this will make a difference remains to be seen, but is a step in the right direction.
At this time it is not known whether the USDA will ultimately make the labeling a requirement, but those beef companies willing to do so, motivated by restoring their reputations, may start labeling immediately should they choose.
Although some fired out comments at the USDA that optional labeling for additives in meat products is not enough.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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