Blog: Beef Products stung by "pink slime" panic

Michelle Russell | 28 March 2012

It seems Beef Products Inc has had enough of the controversy surrounding the "pink slime" it reportedly produces, and plans to suspend operations at three of its facilities until the issues are addressed.

The company, along with many other US firms, has been embroiled in conflict over its meat trimmings after former US government scientist Gerald Zirnstein coined the term "pink slime" to describe the unlabelled and "unappetising" bits of cartilage and other chemically-treated scrap meat going into ground beef.

He reportedly made the slime reference to a fellow scientist in an internal - and he thought private - email. But that email later became public, and with it came an explosion of outrage from consumer groups.

While regulators have said the ammonia-treated filler, known in the industry as "lean, finely textured beef," meets food safety standards, critics say the product could be unsafe and is an unappetising example of industrialised food production.

BPI, a producer of the meat trimmings, has said it will now suspend production at three of its four plants amid concern about the product.

The facilities being wound down are located in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kansas; and Waterloo, Iowa. Together they reportedly produce around 900,000lb of the beef product per day.

The 200 employees at each location will receive their full salary and benefits for 60 days while production is suspended.

"We feel like when people can start to understand the truth and reality then our business will come back. It's 100 percent beef," a spokesperson for the company told CBS News.

Many may be breathing a sigh of relief that BPI is drastically scaling back production of the "pink slime", but the product has been used in the US for years with no concerns attached to it.

While no doubt, the beef product is cheap to produce and makes products such as burgers less costly, there's no evidence to date that it makes beef less safe, or even less nutritious. It seems BPI may have to sit and ride out this storm.

Beef Products Inc could not be reached for comment.


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