Some important players in the meat business decided recently how they see it, or perhaps more accurately, how their customers see it. McDonald's, Taco Bell and Burger King all announced in January that they no longer would use the material in their ground meat. Mills conceded that he understands their decision, but regrets it.

"They succumbed to the pressure, and they are out there on the line -- right at the consumer interface," he said. "And when the popular consensus is that a product is bad, then businesses on the interface with consumers don't have any choice but to respond to their desires and beliefs. Consumers are always right."

But Mills believes not using LFTB is a decision to waste food, and he hates that because it happens too much in the U.S. "I have seen enough situations in other countries where people appreciate food," he said. "We don't in the United States because we have so much that wasting food is part of our culture -- it is the thing that we do.

"We eat ourselves sick and throw the rest away. But that is not the rule around the world for most of the population, and it bothers me when we make a decision like this to waste food. I grew up in a household where we did not waste food."

One controversial aspect of LFTB yet to be decided is whether it will be labeled differently than other beef, as some detractors insist. They contend that without special labeling, consumers can't tell when they are getting pink slime. Mills doesn't expect special labeling will be required.

There is no technical justification for labeling, he said. LFTB is meat that has been warmed to body temperature and physically separated from fat. It is uncooked beef.

"I don't think that USDA will require this product -- whether you call it pink slime or lean, finely textured beef -- to be labeled specially," Mills said. "I expect the officials at USDA will resist efforts to require labeling."

But he said their response may come down to the political will of the organization. "Will they stick to their guns?" he wondered. "If not, we could see special labeling for this. But if so, I worry that it is going to set a precedent that will change considerably how we label a variety of other meat products."