Archive for Thursday, March 29, 2012

Brownback, two other governors tour Nebraska beef plant to see ‘pink slime’

March 29, 2012

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— Governors of three states donned coats, hair nets and goggles to tour a main production plant for "pink slime" Thursday, hoping to persuade grossed-out consumers and grocery stores to accept the processed beef trimmings are as safe as the industry insists.

Craig Letch, director of food quality and assurance for Beef Products Inc. (BPI), left, leads a tour of governors from left: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Thursday, March 29, 2012, through Beef Products Inc.'s plant in South Sioux City, Neb., where the beef product is made. The governors of Iowa, Texas and Kansas and lieutenant governors of Nebraska and South Dakota toured the plant to show their support for the company and the several thousand jobs it creates in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas.

Craig Letch, director of food quality and assurance for Beef Products Inc. (BPI), left, leads a tour of governors from left: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Thursday, March 29, 2012, through Beef Products Inc.'s plant in South Sioux City, Neb., where the beef product is made. The governors of Iowa, Texas and Kansas and lieutenant governors of Nebraska and South Dakota toured the plant to show their support for the company and the several thousand jobs it creates in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas.

Three governors and two lieutenant governors spent about a half-hour touring Beef Products Inc.'s plant to show their support for the company and the thousands of jobs it creates in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas.

"It's beef, but it's leaner beef, which is better for you," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said after watching a presentation of how the textured beef product is made and taking a walking tour of the plant.

Beef Products, the main producer of the cheap lean beef made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts, has drawn extra scrutiny because of concerns about the ammonium hydroxide it treats meat with to slightly change the acidity of the beef and kill bacteria. The company suspended operations at plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa this week, affecting 650 jobs, but it defends its product as safe.

While the official name is lean finely textured beef, critics dub it "pink slime" and say it's an unappetizing example of industrialized food production. That term was coined by a federal microbiologist who was grossed out by it, but the product meets federal food safety standards and has been used for years.

The politicians who toured the plant — Branstad, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels — all agree with the industry view that pink slime has been unfairly maligned and mislabeled and issued a joint statement earlier saying the product is safe.

The officials spent about 20 minutes going over the production process in a separate room at the plant with Craig Letch, the company's director of quality assurance, viewing and handling more than a dozen slabs of raw meat and the processed, finished product laid out on a round wooden table.

None of the officials tasted the product during the tour, but Branstad and Perry were among those munching on burgers made from it at a news conference afterward.

"It's lean. It's good. It's nutritious," Branstad said as he polished off a patty, sans bun.

The politicians defended the plant and the product, and accused the media of creating a controversy over a product because of the name critics gave it.

"If you called it finely textured lean beef, would we be here?" asked Sheehy.

The officials donned hard hats, hair nets and goggles for a brief walking tour of the facility. Workers manned conveyor belts of meat cuts that ran from one side of the room to the other in the chilled room; the ammonium hydroxide treatment process was not visible.

Larry Smith, with the Institute for Crisis Management public relations firm, said he's not sure the makers of pink slime — including Cargill and BPI — will be able to overcome the public stigma against their product at this point.

"I can't think of a single solitary message that a manufacturer could use that would resonate with anybody right now," Smith said.

Russell Cross, a former administrator of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, said the product is getting a bad rap from a food safety standpoint.

"I'm not saying it's perfectly safe. Nothing is perfectly safe. All food is going to have bacteria in it. But this product has never been in question for safety," he said.

Cross said that ammonia is just one tool designed to reduce bacteria and help make the food safer. The process Cargill uses, by comparison, uses citric acid to achieve similar results.

The finished product contains only a trace of ammonia, as do many other foods, and it's meant just to be an additional "hurdle for the pathogens," said Cross, who is now head of the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M; University.

The ammonium hydroxide BPI uses is also used in baked goods, puddings and other processed foods.

National Meat Association spokesman Jeremy Russell said if consumers insist on eliminating the product from ground beef, prices will go up and lean beef trimmings will have to be imported to replace it. The process of creating lean, finely textured beef yields about 12 to 15 pounds of additional meat per animal.

Russell said the pink slime outcry has already hurt BPI and other meat companies, and could eventually hurt the price that ranchers and feedlots receive for cattle.

BPI did get some good news Wednesday when Iowa-based grocer Hy-Vee said it would offer beef with and without pink slime because some consumers demanded the option. But larger grocery store chains, such as Kroger, have stuck with their decisions to stop offering beef with pink slime.

The real test may come later this year when school districts purchase meat from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for next school year. The USDA said earlier this month that it would give school districts a choice between 95 percent lean beef that contains pink slime and less-lean beef without it.

Russell said school districts will have to decide whether they're willing to spend roughly 16 percent more for beef without pink slime.

The USDA this year is contracted to buy 111.5 million pounds of ground beef for the National School Lunch Program. About 7 million pounds of that is from BPI.


Associated Press Business Writer Josh Funk in Omaha, Neb., Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis and Mike Glover in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

Comments

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 3 months ago

"The politicians defended the plant and the product, and accused the media of creating a controversy over a product because of the name critics gave it.

"If you called it finely textured lean beef, would we be here?" asked Sheehy."

And if you said "Affordable Health Care Initiative" instead of the republican's delibertly incendary term "Obamacare" would so many lame brained members lf the great unwashed uneducated and ignorant pinheads be up in arms when some pandering republican candidate screams that he is "going to repeal "obamacare"????????

If the truth were made readily available, would the republican facist candidates have any issue to dwell on?? I have not heard any constructive information about this badly needed and very hekpful law passed by the congress over the bleats and shouts of those candidate clowns.

Peacemaker452 3 years, 3 months ago

I quickly counted 11 grammar and spelling errors in your two short paragraphs that were completely off subject.

Does that qualify you as a "great unwashed, uneducated and ignorant pinhead"?

dwendel 3 years, 3 months ago

The final quotation mark belongs outside the question mark.

Peacemaker452 3 years, 3 months ago

According to these rules; http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/577/03/, the question mark is in the correct location. (I probably just misused a semicolon)

gccs14r 3 years, 3 months ago

So they're getting 12-15 lbs of meat-like product from a 1400 lb animal via a dubious process, and leaving that out of supposed human-grade ground beef is supposedly going to cost money and jobs and somehow force us to import pink slime, instead. (Why would we import something that has caused so much of an uproar that some producers have stopped making it?) What it sounds like is they're trying to sell every part including the "moo", and they're squealing because the People have called them on it.

SilenceDogood 3 years, 3 months ago

I don't know where you are getting your numbers but here are better ones. The average hoof/live weight of an animal taken to slaughter is about 1,150 pounds. An animal that size will yield a dressed/hanging carcass that is around 725 pounds. The usable yield of a carcass that size depends a lot on the grade of the meat, how much fat is trimmed/untrimmed, and the amount of bone left in some of the cuts. We would typically see a final boxed weight of about 575 pounds (25 of which will be organ meat) on a USDA choice carcass. 575 lbs. of meat from a 1150 lb. animal is about 50 percent.

Katara 3 years, 3 months ago

The quarter beef that I last bought was approx. 200lbs after processing. Must have been a bigger cow that was slaughtered.

TopJayhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

Just got a quarter beef and it was right at 200lbs

SilenceDogood 3 years, 3 months ago

That 200 lbs included bone and fat so you are probably looking at a live weight of 1200 - 1250 if in fact you purchased exactly one quarter of it.. You may also have gotten a bit more than a true quarter of the animal.

Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 3 months ago

What they don't want to do is to label the product, so that consumers could have a choice.

WHY DON'T THEY LABEL THIS PRODUCT?

Katara 3 years, 3 months ago

What choice? A choice between 100% beef and 100% beef?

What do you think they are going to call it? It is beef. It is meat from a cow that is extra finely ground. There are no other non-cow products in it.

Katara 3 years, 3 months ago

Actually, it isn't washed in an ammonia hydroxide bath. They use it in a gas form.

And many other products that we eat everyday get the same treatment to kill bacteria.

Katara 3 years, 3 months ago

The article I read had the ammonia as gas sprayed (puffed) on the meat and then when it was squished through the tubes it went through water too. It sounds like we're talking the same thing but using different terms to describe it.

Either way, there is very little ammonia left in it and many other items that we consume use this same method to kill bacteria and we aren't all up in arms about those items and their safety.

I think a lot of this is about the appearance of the beef and it freaks people out.

It is probably along the same lines about how I feel about eating cow tongue. It is edible. It is safe. Lots of people enjoy cow tongue but the fact it was in a cow mouth grosses me out. Logically I know it is fine to eat and probably if someone fed me some & I didn't know it beforehand, I might enjoy it.

But it all comes back to it was in a cow mouth. And have you seen what cows do with their tongues? They pick their own noses with them!

Katara 3 years, 3 months ago

I know some baked goods are and there are other meats such as pork.

If you re-read the article above, there is only a trace of that in the meat.

There are many things in our food items that are not labeled on the package that we may not want to eat. There actually are guidelines regarding an acceptable amount of dead insects in your food.

asixbury 3 years, 3 months ago

Guess what, everything is made up of chemicals. Chemicals are the building-blocks of everything in our known world. If they didn't spray this ammonia gas on the food, there would be tons more cases of food-poisoning. This process makes the food incredibly safer for consumption.

jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

That's one of the reasons that we possibly shouldn't be using this kind of meat in the first place.

It comes from a particularly dirty and dangerous place, with lots of e-coli floating around.

Katara 3 years, 3 months ago

http://tinyurl.com/43o38v6

The above article might be helpful to you. It doesn't list specific brands but it does mention the types of foods that would be treated with it or have it in it

Katara 3 years, 3 months ago

@ Vertigo

It is found in all the beef tubes but IIRC it is also in the regular styrofoam packages too.

I'm pretty sure it is also in most frozen beef products that contain ground beef.

Katara 3 years, 3 months ago

But none of those things are done to this beef with the exception of being hit with ammonia hydroxide gas as are many other food items that you regularly consume.

There are lots of things that are unappetizing looking that we eat. People eat brains, liver, sweetbreads, tripe, etc. Where do you think jello and other gelatins come from?

People are upset because it doesn't look like the picture of beef (such a steak or hamburger) we carry in our heads but it is made from the same thing. There are no additional ingredients.

Would you prefer 12-15lbs of lean protein go to waste? It seems to me that if we are going to go to the trouble to kill an animal for food, we ought to use as much of it as possible.

kochmoney 3 years, 3 months ago

So why not use it in dog food, which is what they used to do with it? That's ok, we can keep feeding our carnivore pets grains and other fillers instead.

Katara 3 years, 3 months ago

Why are you assuming that this meat is only fit for animals? It is the fatty trimmings from the other cuts that you eat.

Katara 3 years, 3 months ago

Feces are not currently wasted. They are used in fertilizer for your fruits and veggies. The feces is also treated to kill off bacteria such as E. Coli.

If you were as educated about your food and food processing as you claim to be, you'd have known that rather than spouting off about eating feces as if you were an actor in German scat porn.

Jon Jambor 3 years, 3 months ago

Why are you so opposed to letting people eat the things they find appetizing? It's safe. It's inexpensive. It's a windfall for people who have to do the grocery shopping for their families, most of whom are women. Are you somehow against a woman's right to choose?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

Lost in all of this controversy is the simple fact that the heavy reliance on factory-farmed meat, poultry and dairy, whether it's pink slime or otherwise, is a major contributor not only the public health crises of obesity, heart disease, stroke and cancer, it's also a very major contributor to global warming/climate change. The current US diet is quite simply self-destructive and unsustainable.

WaxAndWane 3 years, 3 months ago

There's no such thing as healthy red meat. If you think you're doing yourself a favor by eating a strip steak instead of a pink slime burger, guess again. I don't care what Brownback's stance is. I care enough about my health to avoid red meat altogether, so the pink slime issue has no impact on me.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 3 months ago

I am in favor of more people who do not eat red meat for some very peculiar and strange reasons. Hamburger (with or without that finlly ttextured stuff) and steaks are pricy enough. If more people refrained from eating those yummy steaks and mouth watering burgers, the demand would decline and they would have to lower prices so those of us who do not give one whit for the politics of red meat can have our steaks and afford to buy them too.

asixbury 3 years, 3 months ago

Guess what, everything is made up of chemicals. Chemicals are the building-blocks of everything in our known world. If they didn't spray this ammonia gas on the food, there would be tons more cases of food-poisoning. This process makes the food incredibly safer for consumption.

asixbury 3 years, 3 months ago

Guess what, everything is made up of chemicals. Chemicals are the building-blocks of everything in our known world. If they didn't spray this ammonia gas on the food, there would be tons more cases of food-poisoning. This process makes the food incredibly safer for consumption.

asixbury 3 years, 3 months ago

Guess what, everything is made up of chemicals. Chemicals are the building-blocks of everything in our known world. If they didn't spray this ammonia gas on the food, there would be tons more cases of food-poisoning. This process makes the food incredibly safer for consumption.

asixbury 3 years, 3 months ago

I only hit the button once, why did it post 3 times?

woodscolt 3 years, 3 months ago

"Slime" has been such an important part of Slimebacks life that calling it "pink" kinda invokes a sense of pride for sammy. After all if the pink slime goes, where will it ever stop with sammy. Sort of a slippery slimey slope down for the sammy to get on.

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