MORE than a year after a media-fueled firestorm, Cargill Beef announced that it will begin labeling its branded, U.S.-made fresh ground beef products containing finely textured beef (FTB) with the declaration: "Contains Finely Textured Beef."
The company said its decision was based on 18 months of extensive consumer research related to the issue. FTB, along with a competing product produced by Beef Products Inc. known as lean, finely textured beef, was the subject of a series of controversial 2012 news reports describing the products collectively as "pink slime."
Cargill said national consumer surveys and focus groups have consistently called for transparency from the company regarding FTB.
"Our research shows that consumers believe ground beef products containing finely textured beef should be clearly labeled," Cargill Beef president John Keating said. "We've listened to the public, as well as our customers, and that is why today we are declaring our commitment to labeling finely textured beef."
Keating said the company's research also showed consistently that when consumers were presented with the facts that FTB is 100% beef and 95% lean, along with how the product is made, they respond positively to the product and its benefits.
To aid in that educational and informational effort, the company launched a dedicated website — www.GroundBeefAnswers.com — to provide information about the product as well as videos showing how FTB is made at Cargill's U.S. beef processing plants.
Cargill spokesman Michael Martin told Feedstuffs that the company's FTB volume dropped by roughly 80% following last year's media dustup.
"Our current volume is about 50% of what it was prior to that situation," he said.
In fact, the absence of FTB production and revenue played a major part in the company's decision to idle its Plainview, Texas, beef processing plant back on Feb. 1.
"Although it was not the primary reason for idling the plant, it was a significant contributing factor," Martin said.
The significant depletion of cattle supplies in the region, following several years of withering drought, was named as a critical reason for the plant's closure at the time.