On Dec. 21, Beef Products Incorporated (BPI) notified its customers that its signature product, Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB), would now be classified as simply “Ground Beef.”
Since 1994, USDA has recognized LFTB as a qualified component of ground beef; however, this change allows BPI’s product to be labeled and marketed as just ground beef.
This change was made possible after an extensive review by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Last week, I had the opportunity to visit with two BPI execs about the process and what this reclassification means for the company.
Nick Ross, BPI vice president of engineering, said, “We approached USDA about the possibility of reclassifying our product. It was an extensive review that took well over six months and included consumer reviews, nutritional panels, tours of the plant where agency folks could get a first-hand look at the process and understand what we are doing at BPI.”
Over the past 30 years, BPI’s unique process for harvesting beef has evolved and improved significantly from a taste, safety and yield standpoint.
“As a business, we have always focused on delivering high-quality lean beef to the marketplace,” said Craig Letch, BPI vice president of sales and marketing. “It’s nice to be recognized by the USDA for what we have accomplished over the years in providing ground beef for the market.”
BPI’s processes for harvesting ground beef reduces the number of cattle required to meet global consumption. In fact, approximately 1.5 million additional head of cattle would need to be harvested annually to make up the difference.
This, of course, means fewer natural resources used, and is an amazing, largely unknown efficiency in our beef industry that I wish more consumers realized and understood!
“The reality is when our family started this business 30 years ago, the intent was really to come in and come up with the most sustainable and efficient method for ground beef production,” said Ross. “Our product is very different from conventional beef in that we use a very highly modulated and sophisticated process. In our evolution to improve our process, I could describe all sorts of changes we’ve made, but it’s almost easier to say, what hasn’t changed?”
Ross explained that BPI’s process has changed almost continuously in the last 30 years. With advancements in technology and even the raw materials they use, the process at BPI has really matured to the point where Ross says the company felt extremely confident their product was simply ground beef, and after the USDA review, they felt the same way.
“We want to continue to work with the customers that we’ve been partnering with for a long time as a lean meat supplier,” said Letch. “However, this reclassification also opens up new doors for us. We want to be more consumer focused and very transparent with our customer base. This change from the USDA will allow us to provide new and innovative types of products that our process lends itself well to.”
This new distinction is particularly positive news as BPI moves forward after several years of fighting ABC’s damaging and libelous “pink slime” reporting. You may recall the ins and outs of the company’s ongoing legal battles following these defamatory news stories.
During that time, BPI used the slogan, “Dude. It’s Beef,” to describes the process behind its LFTB product. Ultimately, the case was settled out of court, and now the company is looking forward to the future.
“We are optimistic about the future, and our company will continue to move forward as we always have,” said Ross.
The company is confident in its product, and this designation from the USDA reinforces what BPI has been working on all these years — to provide a safe, nutritious lean ground beef product to beef-loving consumers.
With that USDA stamp of approval, the company’s slogan is even more accurate now than ever before. Dude, it really is beef!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.