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Brownback says "pink slime" criticism unfair

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March 29, 2012|By Chris Durden | KWCH 12 Eyewitness News

(TOPEKA, Kan.) — Grocery stores including Dillons have stopped selling products containing it. Fast food restaurants like McDonalds have stopped including it in their burgers.

However, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says there's nothing wrong with the low-cost beef filler commonly referred to as "pink slime."

On Thursday, Brownback toured a Nebraska beef plant with Republicans Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels of South Dakota.

The governors toured a plant run by Beef Products Inc., where they were served hamburgers made with the BPI beef.

The company is the main producer of the cheap lean beef made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. It is under scrutiny because of concerns about the ammonium hydroxide it treats meat with to change the acidity of the beef and kill bacteria.

The Department of Agriculture says the filler is safe.

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BPI says the recent controversy has forced it to close three of its four plants, including one in Holcomb. The suspension of operations at the Holcomb plant has caused a loss of 236 local jobs.

Employees will receive full salary and benefits until May 25. It's unclear whether the closings will be permanent.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp whose district includes Holcomb offered the following statement for the official record on the House of Representatives criticizing recent news coverage.

Mr. Speaker,

I rise today to join my colleagues in expressing my frustration with ABC News’ muckraking “journalism” that has forced the closure of a plant employing more than 200 people in my district.

What we have before us is a perfect example of mainstream media completely disconnected from reality. In a quest for accolades and attention, reporters, talking heads, and morning talk show hosts at ABC have made it their intention to drive Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) out of business. And they may have succeeded. Despite developing a process that adds approximately $15 of value to each head of cattle processed, and providing safe, healthy, lean meat for more than 300 billion meals, BPI is being forced to close the doors of its plant in Finney County, Kansas.

But while the reporters, producers, and executives at ABC move on to their next “public interest” story as questions of finely textured lean beef fade into the background, the same cannot be said of employees at BPI. It is ironic that a perfectly good “public interest” story for them to cover is the loss of hundreds of jobs for people in my district and from the three other BPI plants across the country. But doing so would bring too much attention to ABC’s role in causing these people to lose their jobs.

Make no mistake, Mr. Speaker—finely textured lean beef is just that: beef. In terms of meat content, it is no different from the steak being served at Charlie Palmer’s, or the hamburger at Five Guys. It’s not scrap, filler, or substitute. It’s beef.

And it’s safe to eat. While much has been made of the use of ammonia to treat the meat once it is processed, it has not been, and should not be a safety concern. This process has been approved by the USDA on a whole host of food products, including meat, cheeses, chocolate, pudding, condiments, and beverages to prevent food-borne diseases. Not once, in nearly 20 years of production, has there ever been a report of e.coli or other food-borne illness resulting from finely textured lean beef. It is safe, healthy and only being vilified because someone thought it might win them an award.

It is my hope that the American people will not be so easily fooled in the future, and will explore the facts for themselves, rather than allowing a news organization, on a crusade to win awards, take down a safe, successful company providing good jobs for hundreds of Americans.

*Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

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