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A coalition of governors is rallying behind the U.S. beef industry and its use of lean finely textured beef (LFTB), the ground beef additive made controversial in recent press reports as “pink slime.” To show their support, various governors and state leaders went on a tour of Beef Products Inc.’s (BPI) South Sioux City, Neb., facility on March 29.

As a result of consumer demand that retailers drop LFTB products, Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based BPI has had to close three of its plants temporarily, resulting in mass layoffs of workers.

A joint statement from Govs.Terry Branstad (Iowa); Sam Brownback (Kansas); Lt. Gov. Matt Michels (standing in for South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who is on a trade mission in China); Dave Heineman (Nebraska); and Rick Perry (Texas) read in part: “Lean finely textured beef is a safe, nutritious product that is backed by sound science. It is unfortunate when inaccurate information causes an unnecessary panic among consumers.” The governors characterized the current climate of “media sensationalism” as “a disservice to the beef industry, hundreds of workers who make their livings producing this safe product, and consumers as a whole.”

Branstad, Perry, Brownback, Kanas Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and Michaels took part in the plant tour, along with U.S. Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen,  several of the states' Secretaries of Agriculture, a meat scientist and members of the media. During the tour, Branstad and Perry ate hamburgers containing LFTB, the Kansas City Star reported.

In their statement, the governors noted that already, more than 650 workers in Kansas, Texas and Iowa have been temporarily laid off, and cited National Meat Association figures that as many as 3,000 American jobs will be affected when suppliers are also factored in.

In common with the American Meat Institute, the governors cautioned that the upshot of removing LFTB from the market would be higher ground beef prices “as ranchers work to raise as many as 1.5 million more head of cattle to replace safe beef no longer consumed because of the baseless media scare.”

The governors went on to urge grocers, consumers and the media get the facts on LFTB.