A U.S. government agency has regulated that a processed beef product made from slaughterhouse trimmings — known as "pink slime" — can be legally classified as ground beef.

The product was the focus of an ABC News documentary in 2012, after which a company that makes the so-called "pink slime" — Beef Products Inc. in South Dakota — both filed a lawsuit against ABC and submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to evaluate the product.

Joining Boston Public Radio for his take was Corby Kummer, a senior editor at The Atlantic, an award-winning food writer, and a senior lecturer at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition and Policy.

"In slaughterhouses, they try to use every bit of the beef," Kummer explained.

"If it's a big slaughterhouse factory assembly line, they take all the fatty trimmings, they throw it into a centrifuge, they centrifuge off the fat so they know it's just lean that's left, then they sell the fat as tallow and [have] this lean, finely textured beef — [hence] the name of 'pink slime,'" he added. "They spray it with ammonia, a common disinfectant ... they disinfect it, and then they can add it to ground beef."

As New Food Economy notes, "pink slime" has, since 1994, been classified as an acceptable additive or filler to ground beef. But this is the first time it can legally be called "ground beef" on its own.

As part of their lawsuit against ABC, Beef Products Inc. alleged that the network's documentary had destroyed the company's sales. They settled in 2017 for $177 million, according to Quartz. But Kummer says pink slime's reputation may be on the upswing, thanks to the USDA's pronouncement.

"It's back in business," he said. "Not only is it back in business, but they can call it meat."