Litigation » ‘Pink Slime’ Is Gross, Yes, But Defamatory?

‘Pink Slime’ Is Gross, Yes, But Defamatory?

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June 1, 2017

ABC News will take to a South Dakota courtroom to defend a series of stories it ran detailing Beef Products, Inc.’s practice of adding finely textured beef product made from cow trimmings to ground beef, to lower its fat content. Reporter Jim Avila called the trimmings “pink slime,” a term used by USDA microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein. Beef Products Inc. has sued ABC for using the unappetizing term, saying it led to three plant closings, lay-offs of more than 700 workers and made fast-food chains sever ties with the company. The company is suing for product disparagement, interference with business operations, and other claims. “ABC News actually did some reporting at BPI and showed what it characterized as a pristine plant with pristine processing,” Jane Kirtley, director of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota, told NPR. “But the mere use of the phrase pink slime was something that captured the public imagination and I think, frankly, escalated the ick factor.”

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