Citing increased consumer and retailer demand for transparency, Cargill rolled out labels on all consumer and bulk ground beef products containing finely textured beef (FTB) starting Jan. 20, 2014. The label “Contains Finely Textured Beef” is printed near the nutritional panel on the back of product labels and boxes.
Cargill is four months ahead of schedule on the labeling rollout (originally slated for Memorial Day weekend), after making the initial announcement in November.
“After the March 2012 news media and social media furor over the production and use of FTB in ground beef, we conducted considerable consumer research,” Mike Martin, Cargill’s director of communications, told FoodNavigator-USA. “We felt it was important to gather consumer feedback, given the amount of misinformation that swirled around about FTB.”
The firm surveyed multiple retail customers and conducted surveys and focus groups on more than 3,000 consumers in the months following the “pink slime” scandal that rocked rival ground beef supplier Beef Products Inc. Cargill escaped much of the criticism because it uses citric acid to kill pathogens, as opposed to BPI, which uses ammonium hydroxide on its "lean finely textured beef."
“We found that, when we explained—what FTB is, how it produced and what the value is—consumers have no issues with the USDA-approved product or process. However, they do prefer to know when FTB is included in ground beef, even though FTB is 100% pure beef and does not require labeling.”
As part of its effort to prove its dedication to transparency, Cargill also created a website, GroundBeefAnswers.com, about the contentious meat product. Moreover, Cargill’s Our Certified brand now features front-of-pack QR codes linking to the CargillGroundBeef.com website, which traces ground beef back to the Cargill processing facility where it was produced.
“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,” John Keating, Cargill Beef president, said. “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. That’s important to them, which makes it important to us, and it is what the category leader needs to be doing.”