ELK POINT, S.D. | Videotaped depositions continued Friday in the defamation lawsuit brought by Beef Products Inc. against ABC News for a series of news reports in 2012 that questioned the quality and safety of Lean Finely Textured Beef.
In recorded testimony, representatives of beef packing companies said they did not have any safety concerns about BPI’s product, but there were occasional concerns about quality and smell.
Jensen Meat Company, which is based in San Diego, California, was among the companies that purchased Lean Finely Textured Beef from BPI.
Jensen Meat CEO Abel Olivera recalled the company received a batch of Lean Finely Textured Beef with an ammonia odor so strong that employees thought there was a leak at the factory. An email was sent to BPI saying they had noticed a strong ammonia odor and that the company needed to fix it.
“Was it normal for Lean Finely Textured Beef to have an ammonia odor?,” a lawyer asked Olivera in a video deposition.
“Yes,” he replied.
Olivera said there were also concerns the product's color and that it caused meat patties to break apart. He said one company capped the amount of Lean Finely Textured Beef that could be used in its product because it broke apart when cooked on a grill.
“There were concerns with quality and breakage,” Olivera said.
BPI is seeking $1.9 billion in damages from ABC. The amount could reach as high as $5.7 billion under a South Dakota law that allows for triple damages in cases where a party intentionally spreads false information about an agriculture product.
BPI’s remaining witnesses include more beef packers, as well as several representatives of grocers who are expected to testify about the public backlash from ABC’s repeated use of the term “pink slime.”
BPI could rest its case next week, giving ABC its opportunity to present its defense.