The processed meat-scraps most of us call “meatballs” are now officially just “balls” in Finland

Spaghetti and balls.
Spaghetti and balls.
Image: AP/Richard Drew
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

A wholesaler in Finland has renamed the meatballs it sells in stores because the meatballs “contain only machine-recovered meat, essentially scraps, which are not defined as meat in Finnish law,” according to the Finnish news service YLE. From now on, the Finnish food giant Kesko’s spheres of unspecified protein—made from “the equivalent of 52 percent meat” from pork and chicken—will simply be called pyöryköitä, which translates to “balls” in English.

“Mechanically recovered meat cannot be described as meat,” a Kesko employee told YLE, because it is “separated from the bone after the parts that can be defined as meat have been removed from the carcass with a knife.” That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with using this flesh in processed foods, she said: “It’s worthwhile to use those ingredients somehow and they are well-suited for use in these kinds of ground meat products.”

It’s unclear exactly what process Kesko uses, but in the US, there are several classifications for processed meat scraps—including the notorious ”pink slime.” In the US, mechanically recovered meat can be labeled as “pork” or “beef.” Only if a certain amount of bone material makes its way into the mix must the ingredient be labeled “mechanically separated.”

Finland’s rules are evidently different. If the US were to crack down on product labels in a similar way, a lot of retailers would probably have to call their chicken nuggets simply ”nuggets.”

“Milk Dud” candies might be re-named “Duds.” (Hershey’s already skirts the issue by labeling chocolate-like products as ”chocolate candy,” or “chocolatey.”)

And while the product label for “Cheese Wiz” does include the caveat that it’s not actually cheese but a “pasteurized cheese product”—given Finland’s low tolerance for misappropriation of food terms, we’re guessing the tangy orange spray might have to change its name to ”Wiz” over there.