Beef Products Inc, primary manufacturer of the ammoniated beef product widely known as “pink slime,” has mounted a concerted effort to clean up the reputation of the company and its product.
“It’s not bad for you, but it’s not what you expected, either.”
—Robert Buchanan, PhD, director of the Center for Food Safety and Security Systems
On March 26, the company announced it would temporarily suspend production at three plants — in Waterloo, Iowa, Garden City, Kansas, and Amarillo, Texas — after controversy over the use of its “lean finely textured beef” (LFTB) in grocery ground beef and school lunches led to a 70% drop in business.
Later that week, BPI rounded up politicians from the states where plants had closed, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, to sing the praises of the beef-trimming product, which was dropped from the meat cases at stores including Safeway, SuperValu, Kroger, and Food Lion. The governors passed out T-shirts bearing the slogan, “Dude, it’s BEEF!”
Also on hand was Gary Acuff, PhD, director of the Center for Food Safety at Texas A&M University, who said BPI has been proactive in its food safety policies.
Robert Buchanan, PhD, director of the Center for Food Safety and Security Systems at the University of Maryland, said that on the food safety score, there’s nothing wrong with “pink slime”: “It’s just partially hydrolyzed protein, and it’s not dangerous or toxic. In fact, the alkali treatment means that it’s probably microbiologically safer than some other meats.”
But that message is unlikely to resonate with the public, he added. “I think the feeling here is that somebody is sneaking in some substandard material, and I can understand that. It’s not bad for you, but it’s not what you expected, either.”