Political leaders joined food safety and agricultural experts for a tour of Beef Products, Inc., to maintain the use and safety of lean finely textured beef, also referred to as “pink slime.”

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels toured the only BPI plant presently in operation as demand for LFTB orders from groceries across the country have declined since the “pink slime” controversy began. In a press conference following the tour, Branstad compared the media interest in pink slime to the swine flu a few years ago when pork consumption decreased largely because of consumers’ lack of knowledge about the topic.

Branstad recognized the need to educate the public about LFTB saying the product's tagline should be, “Dude, it’s beef,” and called for an end to the smear campaign. Speakers at the press conference after the tour focused on the safety of LFTB, citing zero illnesses caused by the product since its creation over two decades ago.

With decreasing orders of LFTB from groceries and school lunch programs, beef prices are expected to increase and more cows will be needed to meet demand. Exports and domestic cattle production will need to increase to provide the same amount of beef.

Concerns with ammonia

Gary Acuff, director of the Center for Food Safety at Texas A&M University, spoke to the use of ammonia in the LFTB process. Ammonia is not a necessary step, but is done to make the product safer. Acuff pointed to other consumer products with ammonia including chocolate, coffee creamers and tofu.

He said the beef industry is heavily invested in food safety and added the science-based process made use of as much beef as possible.