Governors from three states will tour a plant in South Sioux City, Nebraska, today that makes a lean beef product that’s been blasted by critics who call it “pink slime.”
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke yesterday in Des Moines, Iowa, to denounce those critics.
“This product is safe. This product contains less fat and has, historically, been less expensive,” Vilsack said, “and if people understand the facts, then obviously they’ll make the right set of choices.”
Beef Products Incorporated is the nation’s leading processor of this “boneless, lean beef” product. It has already shut down its plants in Iowa, Texas and Kansas, putting hundreds of people out of work.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and a delegation of officials will visit BPI’s plant in South Sioux City today which has reduced production dramatically due to declining consumer demand.
“We feel our responsibility is to correct the smear campaign and the misinformation with honest facts and information,” Branstad said. “And that’s why we’re going to have people from Iowa State University and Texas A&M and knowlegable people from USDA counter the smear and counter the misinformation with the facts.”
The governors of Texas and Kansas will join Branstad today for a tour of the South Sioux City plant, along with Nebraska Lieutenant Governor Rick Sheehy and South Dakota Lt. Governor Matt Michels. Branstad says national and local media have been invited to the event.
“We’re going to go through the plant. We’re going to show how in this beef processing plant how this product is made and why we feel it’s safe,” Branstad told reporters in Des Moines yesterday. “We’re going to consume some of it and we’re going to try to do all we can to try to set the record straight.”
Branstad accuses the national media of a “poisonous tone”about this product that will hurt the nation’s cattle producers and the people who work at the plants.
The lean, finely-textured beef product is made from the trimmings left over after beef carcasses are cut into steaks and roasts.
According to Vilsack, “hundreds” of schools asked the USDA to ban the product from school lunches.
“We were not going to do that. The reason we weren’t going to do it was because it’s safe, it contains less fat and historically it’s been less expensive,” Vilsack said. “Having said that, our customers wanted a choice and I don’t think we’re in the business of basically mandating that they not have a choice that they’re requesting, so we’re going to make sure that they have the choice, but our goal is that they make that choice and that decision based on the facts and I think if they look at it they will make the set of right choices for themselves and their children based on the needs of their school district.”
Grocery store chains, including Hy-Vee, have moved to clear this product from their shelves, but Branstad says he’s convinced Hy-Vee to rethink that decision and the food chain will offer the product for sale, with a tag touting that it’s lean and less fatty.