Settlement in 'Pink Slime' Beef Case

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Jun 28, 2017

About halfway through the expected trial, Beef Products Inc. settled its defamation and libel lawsuit against American Broadcasting Co. for calling lean finely textured beef (LFTB) "pink slime" in 2012 TV reports.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but BPI sought up to $1.9 billion in damages, which could have been tripled to $5.7 billion under South Dakota's Agricultural Food Products Disparagement Act. BPI is based in Dakota Dunes, S.D., and the trial was in Elk Point, S.D.

The network at the time said LFTB was present in 70 percent of the ground beef sold in supermarkets, but was not labeled as such. BPI's process reclaims lean meat made from trimmings left after a cow is butchered. The beef is treated with ammonia gas to kill bacteria, then is added to ground beef, in part to reduce the overall fat content.

The network reports admitted the meat was considered safe by USDA.

Fallout from the reports caused grocery stores and foodservice accounts to halt use of the product and forced BPI to close three of its four plants and lay off 700 workers. BPI claimed its sales declined from about 5 million pounds per week to less than 2 million pounds per week.

ABC said: "Although we have concluded that continued litigation of this case is not in the company's interests, we remain committed to the vigorous pursuit of truth and the consumer's right to know about the products they purchase." Reporter Avila added, "It's important to note we're not retracting anything or apologizing for anything."

BPI said: "While this has not been an easy road to travel, it was necessary to begin rectifying the harm we suffered as a result of what we believed to be biased and baseless reporting. Through this process, we have again established what we all know to be true about Lean Finely Textured Beef: It is beef, and is safe, wholesome and nutritious."

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