Source: Iowa Cattlemen's Association
USDA has received applications from companies that would like to label their products that include lean, finely textured beef (LFTB). Because USDA considers LFTB an all-beef product, it has never required that it be labeled.
An existing rule, however, has always allowed processors to voluntarily take that step, and it's an option that Cargill and Tyson, two of the largest beef processors, are now pursuing.
"USDA has received this type of application for the first time through the normal label approval process, and the department has determined that such requests will be approved," said USDA spokesman Aaron Lavallee. "By exercising this existing option, these companies can continue to provide a lean, safe and nutritious product to an informed customer base."
According to the USDA, examples of labels that may be requested include: "Contains Lean Finely Textured Beef," "Contains Finely Textured Beef," or "Contains Lean Beef Derived from Beef Trimmings."
Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), the Siouxland area company that processes LFTB, has signed on to the USDA labeling move.
"While ground beef is a single ingredient product (beef) and lean finely textured beef therefore is not required to be listed separately on any label, we believe USDA’s decision to allow companies to voluntarily include information on their label regarding LFTB content will be an important first step in restoring consumer confidence in their ground beef," the statement said.
BPI said the labeling requests will allow retailers the opportunity to provide options to consumers and pave the way for BPI’s lean beef to reestablish its place in the market. Numerous taste panel studies have shown strong consumer preference for ground beef that contains LFTB, BPI said.
Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, called the labeling "appropriate." "We don’t have a concern about its safety, but it certainly has captured a lot of attention and showed that the level of consumer concern shows that more information is needed, and so labeling would be appropriate," she said.
Hy-Vee spokeswoman Ruth Comer cited a surge of support for the beef trimmings as a factor in the chain’s reversal of an earlier decision to take ground beef with the product off its shelves. Hy-Vee now will offer consumers a choice.