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Meatballs Are Now Just Called 'Balls' in Finland

A Finnish food giant has decided that the lower-quality protein used to make its meatballs doesn't qualify as meat. The company's solution was to drop the "meat" prefix from the product—leaving us with simply "balls."
Photo via Flickr user gavreh

The horse meat scandal that rocked Europe in 2013 was enough to put anyone off their processed protein for a long while, but being excruciatingly honest about what's in your products isn't all that helpful either. If you ask Finnish food giant Kesko how much meat is in its meatballs, it will tell you unequivocally: absolutely none.

But that's not exactly true—Kesko's meatballs contain at least 52 percent pork and chicken.


The problem is one of semantics, because Kesko doesn't believe that the lower-quality protein used to make its meatballs qualifies as, well, meat. The product's ingredient list includes 42 percent suomalainen koneellisesti eroteltu broilerinliha (or "Finnish mechanically recovered chicken meat") and another 10 percent of scrap pork.

Kesko's solution to this conundrum? Drop the "meat" prefix from the name of the product on its website—leaving us with simply "balls."

Heta Rautpalo, the company's head of food product research, said that scrap meat—the stuff that becomes "pink slime" in the US—may not be called "meat" in Kesko's products.

"Mechanically recovered meat cannot be described as meat," Rautpalo told Finnish news site YLE. "It's mechanically separated from the bone after the parts that can be defined as meat have been removed from the carcass with a knife."

"[According] to current legislation, they aren't those parts of the animal that can be described as meat," she added.

But just because Kesko won't say that its meatballs include meat doesn't mean that it's taking a stand against "mechanically recovered" animal protein. "It's worthwhile to use those ingredients somehow and they are well-suited for use in these kinds of ground meat products," Rautpalo said.

And there you have it. Finland, we hope you enjoy your mechanically separated protein "balls."

Well, that's the literal translation, perhaps. Pyöryköitä also translates as the much more appealing "dumplings."