The timeline of 'pink slime'

The saga of what happens when a phrase as emotive as "pink slime" drives the narrative around a mass-consumption meat product in the United States

Lean finely textured beef in its finished form, from an ABC News report. (Image via Wikimedia Commons by Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49925047)
Lean finely textured beef in its finished form, from an ABC News report. (Image via Wikimedia Commons by Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49925047)

April 12, 2011
Chef Jamie Oliver injects "pink slime" into the lexicon in an episode of his TV show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, blasting its use as a food additive. A USDA microbiologist is credited with coining the term.

December 2011-January 2012
McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King announce they no longer use pink slime in their menu items.

March 7, 2012
ABC’s Jim Avila airs a story on meat processor Beef Products reporting that 70% of ground beef at supermarkets contains "lean finely textured beef," as the company calls it. The beef/pink slime is made of waste trimmings processed and sprayed with ammonia gas, and shipped in frozen bricks, the report says.

March 15, 2012
Hundreds of thousands sign petitions to prohibit pink slime in school lunches.

March 22, 2012
Grocery store chains Kroger and Stop & Shop announce they will stop selling beef made with pink slime.

March 2012
Beef Products places an op-ed-style ad in The Wall Street Journal to dispel rumors about lean finely textured beef. The American Meat Institute distributes videos on Facebook that detail how the product is made.

September 14, 2012
Beef Products sues ABC News and Avila for defamation in a lawsuit that names other defendants, seeking $1.9 billion in damages.

June 2014
Pink slime makes a comeback as beef prices rise and stores start buying cheaper beef products.

June 5, 2017
Beef Products’ lawyer claims the ABC report nearly killed the company, which closed three of its four plants following the broadcasts.

June 28, 2017
ABC and Beef Products reach an undisclosed settlement. ABC signals via a statement it stands by its reporting.


Hit or miss?
MISS: Beef Products lost control of the story before the ABC report was conceived. The New York Times wrote a Pulitzer-winning story that used the term in 2009.

Lesson 1: A label sticks if you don’t communicate effectively. No one remembers "lean finely textured beef" — they do remember "pink slime."

Lesson 2: Americans care more about what they put into their bodies than ever before. Somehow, two burger joints and a taco chain got ahead of Beef Products on this issue.

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