Food Safety

‘Pink Slime’ Suit Settled for $177 million

By Kevin T. Higgins, Managing Editor

Aug 10, 2017

Walt Disney Co. has agreed to pay Beef Products Inc. $177 million to settle a defamation lawsuit arising from 2012 news reports that described the company’s product as “pink slime.” We earlier reported on this site the two parties had reached a settlement.

The payment amount was disclosed in a quarterly financial report filed by Disney, parent company of ABC News, which used the term in a series of reports on Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based BPI. Those reports from March and April 2012 remain on the ABC News website.

BPI’s process begins with beef trimmings which are primarily fat. Centrifugal force is used to separate the fat from the meat, which is then pumped through pipes and subjected to treatment by ammonium hydroxide to kill any bacteria. At the end of the process, the meat, which is as much as 97 percent lean beef, is flash frozen on contact with rotating drum freezers with a surface temperature of -60° F. The beef is then pressed into blocks and sold to grinders, who mix it with other beef to raise the lean ratio in hamburgers.

Besides being an effective antimicrobial, ammonium hydroxide helps the meat retain moisture, resulting in a juicier product. It does not impact flavor.

In its quarterly report, Disney noted the suit claimed “actual and consequential” damages of more than $400 million, which BPI asserted in March 2016 could be as much as $1.9 billion. South Dakota law allows treble damages, bringing Disney’s potential exposure to $5.7 billion.

The settlement also covers claims against ABC reporter Jim Avila.

Disney reported net income of $2.4 billion on total revenues of $14.2 billion in the quarter ending July 1.