SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. – Governors of three states got up close with “pink slime” Thursday, touching and examining treated beef at a plant and eating hamburgers made with it in a bid to persuade grossed-out consumers and grocery stores the product is safe to consume.
The three governors and two lieutenant governors spent about a half hour learning about the process of creating finely-textured lean beef in a tour of the main plant that makes the product, then blasted the media for scaring consumers with a moniker coined by critics.
“If you called it finely textured lean beef, would we be here?” asked Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. Several other leaders echoed his comments as they tried to smooth over consumer concerns about the product.
Beef Products has drawn scrutiny over concerns about the ammonium hydroxide it treats meat with to change the beef’s acidity and kill bacteria. The company suspended operations at three plants this week, but defends its product as safe.
The politicians who toured the plant – Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Brownback, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels – all agree with the industry view that the beef 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 cutting boards on a round wooden table.
Afterward, Perry, Branstad and others ate burgers made from the plant’s meat at a news conference.
“It’s lean. It’s good. It’s nutritious,” Branstad said as he polished off a patty, sans bun.