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BPI Sues ABC, Claims “Pink Slime” Is Most Offensive Food Term Thinkable

Last updated on 2013.02.10

Beef Products, Inc., the South Dakota inventor and purveyor of "lean finely textured beef," has filed a $1.2-billion lawsuit against ABC News and others for calling that product by the visually and physically accurate term "pink slime." BPI has not named the Madville Times as a defendant, despite South Dakota's best blog's repeated use of the term pink slime.

The 257-page lawsuit is a hefty read, as will likely be ABC News's vigorous response. Permit me to highlight just one line from BPI's lawyerly bombast:

...a key feature of the campaign against BPI and LFTB was to repeatedly characterize and describe LFTB as "pink slime," so that the phrase became a synonym for LFTB. Defendants used this false and defamatory description for LFTB 137 times during their campaign. There is not a more offensive way of describing a food product than to call it "slime," which is a noxious, repulsive, and filthy fluid not safe for human consumption. Defendants used this false description to rename LFTB in an effort to incite and inflame consumers against BPI and LFTB [BPI lawsuit against ABC News et al., filed in First Circuit Court, Union County, South Dakota, September 13, 2012].

No more offensive term than slime? Oh, I don't know. Quick Googling will find various recipe aficionados using the word slime to favorably describe certain Halloween treats. And I can think of numerous more offensive terms to describe stuff I don't want to put in my mouth... the first of which also starts with s, but which only has four letters. More offensive and more efficient!


  1. Donald Pay 2012.09.16

    Who the hell calls it "lean finely textured beef?" My guess is was some pr oufit that figured out what to call it no one would know.

    If they wanted the public to know what it was they were selling, maybe they should have showed us how it is made and called it that in an ad. Clearly, they weren't proud of their products. My guess is they were scared shitless that the public would find out what shit they were adding to ground beef. If they're so damned proud of their product, why not ask to have it listed on the label?

  2. Justin 2012.09.16

    What I want to know is whether we are still feeding our students this shit.

    Senator Adelstein, if you think you didn't see government bribery under the Rounds Adminstration, you are sorely mistaken. Where is your concern for the BPI fiasco?

    You also didn't call for an ad hoc ethics committee when you were attacked with anti-Semitic campaign propaganda. Are your balls big, or only big enough to slightly challenge David Lust and Russell Olson?

    Marty Jackley is the biggest threat to Liberty our state has ever seen, and you are my only hope to put him in his place. Screw the Stace Nelson for Governor talk, you are our state's greatest hope.

    How do you feel about this? An endorsement and a plea. I think you are the obvious leader to lead SD into the 21st Century. If I get a chance to vote for you in Sioux Falls, I will happily do so.

  3. David Newquist 2012.09.16

    On the processing floor, it used to be called offal by supervisors, gut-scrapings by the workIters.

    It has had an iffy history. It is produced by mechanically scraping the bones. The USDA has issued regulations that limit the amount of calcium in it, which indicates if bone material is getting ground into it. Then it had to issue regulations on any central nervous system tissue in it and restrict the age of cattle it could come from. The nervous system material could transmit mad cow disease.

    Given the history of making this stuff acceptable for production, "pink slime" is kind of a sterile euphemism.

  4. Justin 2012.09.16

    One of my best friends that worked at Morrell has told me they get the best cuts of pork for hot dogs and the controversy over it is highly exaggerated. Mechanized chicken and other additives are a different story. I support Stan Edelstein even if he isn't running for public office. We need strong leaders.

  5. JoeBoo 2012.09.16

    I've stated numerous times what I think of this product (pink slime). Its not as bad as some people make it out to be, but its not ground round hamburger meat either. It is a product, (like many these days), that is pumped full of preservative, and marketed as something its not. I think the issue with the lawsuit is that is pink slime any worse then saying its meat scraps pumped full of preservatives?

  6. Charlie Johnson 2012.09.16

    Bringing this lawsuit only brings the term and the issue back into the public arena. What is to be gained by that? There is plenty of other beef/meat products to promote. Bringing suit only aggraviates an already muddy water.

  7. LK 2012.09.16

    Apparently BPI's lawyers are too young to remember this SNL sketch. It's got lots of potential terms that sound worse than slime. No one called LFTB "mangled baby ducks" or "Dog vomit and monkey puss"

  8. PrairieLady - Gayle 2012.09.16

    Isn't that the same stuff Morrels use to put in big barrels and sell to the Chinese in the '80s? I don't know if they put the ammonia in it then or not.

  9. grudznick 2012.09.16

    Justin, Stan has big enough balls for Lust, but he's going to save them for Mr. Nelson. With Stan's backing, Mr. Nelson will go far.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.16

    Hey now, you folks are using pretty offensive terms! Are you trying to get yourselves taken to court? And remember, the lawsuit is based in part on SDCL 20-10A, South Dakota's legal chapter on Liability for Disparagement of Agricultural Food Products.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.16

    Gayle, you'll have to fill me in on that Morrell's story! It probably was not the exact product developed by Eldon and Regina Roth (who will surely get themselves a spot in the South Dakota Hall of Fame for making South Dakota proud with their innovative pink slime), as the USDA didn't approve their product for use in ground beef until 1993. Did Roths ever collaborate with John Morrell's with their technology, or is BPI the only producer of pink slime? It may be a proprietary concoction.

  12. Roger Elgersma 2012.09.16

    Your blog is not the deep pocket that makes either lawyers or corporations drool. So they left you out. They also knew the blogs would heat up more if they put you in court.
    But when they treat it with ammonia since that is what kills ecoli, I get real suspitious that they bought the trimmings from the leaked guts real cheep and it is really much worse than pink slim. They can not sue for defamation of character if they are portrayed better than they are.
    So then their reason for suing is to scare us from using free speach. They could get countersued. That might make them back off.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.16

    Roger, let's remain a deep pocket... of resistance!

    Of course, anyone who'd like to put me at greater peril of a defamation lawsuit by deepening the pocket the lawyers dig is welcome to ring that tip jar! :-D

  14. Donald Pay 2012.09.16

    SDCL 20-10A doesn't apply, even if this Chapter isn't unconstitutional. "Pink slime" and BPI don't meet the statutory definitions. Pink slime is a manufactured product, not an agricultural product and BPI is not a "producer." That part of the suit will be dismissed, but if I were ABC I'd be using discovery in this suit to get lots of footage of the process, and make sure it hits the airwaves.

    I lobbied against this bill. Interesting that the SD Newspaper Association and SD Broadcasters didn't. Truly, the SD press is gutless.

  15. John M. Nelson 2012.09.16

    Question for anyone: Has the constitutionality of that law, SDCL 20-10A, ever been challenged as violation of free speech?

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.16

    Interesting as always, Donald! You lobbied against that bill? It was passed in 1994, right? As it been used in any other lawsuits?

    "producer"—I take it the argument is that the producer is the rancher who raised the cattle?

    "agricultural food product"—I'm having a harder time getting around this one. We eat pink slime; it comes from agriculture; it's perishable... doesn't that mean it's an ag food product? Help me understand the distinction the courts could make between "agricultural" and "manufactured."

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.16

    Oh, and who sponsored this bill in 1994?

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.16

    John, I wondered about that First Amendment challenge as well. It's still on the books, so it obviously hasn't been challenged. But the definition of "disparagement" includes the criterion that the disseminator know the information is false. That's within the constitutionally accepted realm of defamation lawsuits, isn't it?

  19. PrairieLady - Gayle 2012.09.16

    Cory, A Chinese friend of mine use to buy and export this "stuff" because it was nothing we in the US would use eat or use in "meat products", but the Chinese would. He never said what exactly was in the barrels and I was afraid to ask.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.16

    John, perhaps you would like to turn to the opinion of legal scholar Jonathan Turley, who thinks BPI's lawsuit will fail just like the food-defamation suits waged by apple growers and Texas cattle producers in the 1990s:

    "Calling a product 'slime' is in my view clearly opinion and the inclusion of the scientist [Gerald Zirnstein, among the defendants] in my view is vexatious and unfounded. Likewise, the targeting of ABC raises serious questions of freedom of the press and the threat posed by tort liability vis-a-vis the first amendment. I would bet against the viability of the lawsuit in the long run absent a showing of clearly false statements as opposed to opinion" [Jonathan Turley, "Coming to a Court Near You: The Revenge of the Pink Slime," blog, September 14, 2012].

  21. Donald Pay 2012.09.16


    I don't know of anyone who has brought suit under this law, so ABC will be providing a valuable public service by getting this law off the books. There was a concern among those of us fighting CAFOs in the 1990s that we might be targeted. Some even thought they should find a way to protect any assets they had in case a suit came. I always thought this was paranoia, since CAFOs are permitted under an EPA program that the state administers. Since we were acting under state law to contest these general permits, etc., we were protected.

    One thing my daughter tells me about China is that the press is about the only way to get these sorts food product/tainted food issues addressed there. It's interesting that South Dakota would have a law that is much more restrictive than anything in China.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.16

    Gayle, get that friend on the blog! I'd like to know!

  23. Donald Pay 2012.09.16

    I remember the legislative hearings very well. The intent was to protect ag producers, not packing plants or manufacturers of food products. It stemmed from some economic damage to apple growers in other states because of what they called "false reports" (which were actually true) of certain pesticide use on apples. Of course we had the usual lobbyists for the aggies lying up a storm, and saying how much they needed this bill. And, of course, no actual real ag producer ever tried to use the bill to sue anyone, because most producers have more common sense than BPI.

    Here's the phrase that I think controls: " product of agriculture or aquaculture...." If I recall correctly, the intent was not to include "food products of manufacturers," such as Morrell's, Black Hills Packing, General Mills, etc. I'm not sure if that was to mollify the trial lawyers or not. Knowing how the system works in Pierre, I'm sure some deal was made to let this monstrosity slide through.

  24. Donald Pay 2012.09.16

    Actually, it might be better for us if ABC doesn't argue the definitions. That way they can attack the law full on.

  25. larry kurtz 2012.09.17

    BPI's predicament is analogous to the GOP in South Dakota: scrape the dregs from the kill floor and market the stuff to constituents. Captive bolt pistols would be all too merciful for these these downed animals.

  26. PrairieLady - Gayle 2012.09.17

    Cory, He left Sioux Falls in the late 80's, and I have not heard from him since. The Chinese community is very closed lipped.

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.17

    I'd be closed-lipped, too, if someone tried to feed me a barrel of hog offal.

  28. Nick Nemec 2012.09.18

    I remember that bill when it passed in 1994. Rep. Kenny McNenny if not the prime house sponsor was a big supporter during the floor debate in the House of Representatives. I'm proud to say I voted against it on First Amendment grounds and still would again today if given the chance.

    I'm a farmer and am not afraid to eat the products I raise but I don't agree with some of the processing methods that the giant ag processors use. These kinds of processes might be profitable for the slaughter houses but even heat and ammonia will not kill the prions that transmit Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and are found in the nervous systems of infected cattle.

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.18

    ...and pink slime includes that nervous system tissue?

  30. Nick Nemec 2012.09.18

    If they are mechanically salvaging every scrap of meat from the vertebrae and head there is the possibility that there will be some contamination of those scraps with nervous system material.

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