Canadian Packaging

Finely textured beef labeling

No… it's not a packaging label made from beef—but it's still better consumer information from Cargill.


February 4, 2014
by Canadian Packaging Staff

Cargill, Incorporated says that as of January 20, 2014, all of the Cargill branded, U.S. produced, fresh, 100 percent ground beef products containing finely textured beef will now include a printed declaration on retail packaging. Cargill is a privately-held, multinational corporation based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Cargill’s labeling initiative comes nearly two years after the media took BPI (Beef Products Inc.) to task over their lean finely textured beef product caused confusion and concern—even though they have been creating the ground beef formulation for over 20 years. That bit of media kerfufflle revolved around the so-called ‘pink-slime debate.

Cargill’s finely textured beef is a processed meat product made from chunks of beef, including trimmings, and exposed to citric acid to kill E. coli and other dangerous contaminants. The product, which Cargill has made since 1993, is used to produce higher-volume, less fatty ground beef.

Rather than citric acid, BPI used ammonium hydroxide as a way to kill potential harmful pathogens, and as a result, Cargill avoided much of the pink slime controversy. The public felt that citric acid as used by Cargill was not as ‘icky’ as the ammonium hydroxide used by BPI.

Finely textured beef. Photo courtesy of Cargill.

Cargill said its new ground-beef packaging came about after the agribusiness firm surveyed more than 3,000 consumers after the pink slime issue came to light, asking consumers their view on ground beef and how it is made.

The survey arose after last year’s intense media coverage of South Dakota-based BPI which makes a similar product called “lean finely textured beef,” but Cargill notes that it and BPI  or LFTB. BPI relies on a different technology than Cargill and uses ammonium hydroxide, rather than citric acid, as a processing agent to kill potential pathogens.

So… in an effort to be safe, rather than sorry, Cargill’s labeling on consumer and bulk products will state that it “Contains Finely Textured Beef”.

This declaration now appears on the outer packaging box end labels.

As well, Cargill has created a website just for its finely textured beef: GroundBeefAnswers.com.

Along with the new label, Cargill has updated the “Our Certified” ground beef brand with a new logo and design elements, including a QR code on the front of packaging that customers with a smartphone can use to scan to then view the CargillGroundBeef.com website, which will also enable them to trace the beef they buy back to the processing facility.

“More than ever, consumers are interested in how the food they eat is produced, and we are committed to providing industry leadership with a greater level of transparency,” said John Keating, president of Cargill’s Wichita-based beef business, in a news release. “We are supplying consumers with information that should give them complete confidence in the quality, nutrition, flavor and affordability of the ground beef they feed their families.”