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Food giant Kesko renames meatless meatballs; now simply "balls"

Finnish food giant Kesko moved Monday to rename its meatball product online. The product contains only machine-recovered meat, essentially scraps, which are not defined as meat in Finnish law. The product now retails on the company's website as "pyöryköitä" - or "balls" in English.

Pullat ovat valmiina uuniin
It's probably safe to say that these homemade meatballs are made from the real deal. Kesko's balls feature "mechanically recovered" meat. Image: YLE / Timo Nykyri

Meatballs like your mom used to make typically use real cuts of meat. However the industrial variety aims for efficiency – that means that cast-away bits of pork and chicken are usually part of the mix.

However these ingredients cannot be described as meat, so some manufacturers have dropped the “meat” prefix from the product name. Food giant Kesko’s food division Ruokakesko caught up Monday, finally removing the “meat” from the product description  of the balls on its website. That brought the online product name into  line with the actual item of food.

"Mechanically recovered meat cannot be described as meat. 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," said Ruokakesko’s product research manager Heta Rautpalo.

Some of the company’s product range includes meatballs whose meat content has been defined as zero, according to the packaging information, even though they claim to contain pork and chicken. Rautpalo said the company isn’t looking to mislead consumers.

"These balls (sic) have the equivalent of 52 percent meat. However according to current legislation, they aren’t those parts of the animal that can be described as meat," she explained.

"Discarded bits also worth using"

Rautpalo observed that it’s beneficial to use even the less desirable parts of the animal, as it allows the company to develop low-end products.

"It’s worthwhile to use those ingredients somehow and they are well-suited for use in these kinds of ground meat products," she remarked.

Up to Monday Ruokakesko labeled the product as meatballs on its website. However it changed to simply "balls" during the course of the day.

This story has been edited after Kesko contacted Yle to explain that the balls in question had always been called simply 'balls' on the packaging, rather than 'meatballs'--the reference to meatballs, now 'balls' was only visible on the company's website.

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