When is a “meatball” just a “ball”? You better ask the government of Finland.
Turns out Finland has some pretty strict rules when it comes to defining what is and isn’t meat, and one large Finnish food producer recently garnered some unwanted attention when they needed to alter wording on their website, changing the word “meatballs” to simply “balls.”
The company in question, Kesko, claims there’s nothing wrong with their “balls”; they simply don’t use prime cuts of meat for them. What they use is “mechanically recovered meat.” That sounds terrifying, but it’s really just a technical term for scraps. According to Finnish news outlet 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.”
As pointed out on Quartz, we wouldn’t be having this debate in the US. The USDA has different grades for meat scraps, as opposed to the Finnish government who simply doesn’t consider some of this stuff meat at all. But the chances are good you’ve consumed some “balls” yourself without know it.
The good news is if you’re ever going through Finnish customs and they ask you whether you’re trying to smuggle in any meatballs, you can confidently reply, “Nope.”