Governor’s Ball: Politicians come out for pink slime; urge it not be called pink slime

 Dude it’s beef.

That’s the slogan Midwestern governors came with to a press conference after a tour of the Beef Products Inc. plant in Nebraska yesterday, much like the background audience at a Today Show taping on the streets outside 30 Rock.

It’s beef, but is it meat?

The safety of pink slime, or lean finely textured beef, and the operations of BPI don’t seem to be in question: choice, right-to-know, and what constitutes meat are in play.

Food safety type Michael Batz and others have noted the original beef was whether this beef constituted an adulterated product. According to the regs Batz found, there are nine definitions for meat that is considered “adulterated.” One states, “If any valuable constituent has been in whole or in part omitted or abstracted therefrom; or if any substance has been substituted, wholly or in part therefor; or if damage or inferiority has been concealed in any manner; or if any substance has been added thereto or mixed or packed therewith so as to increase its bulk or weight, or reduce its quality or strength, or make it appear better or of greater value than it is.”

I don’t know. Others can inform on that one. But the PR goes on, laying bare the bicoastal political landscape of the U.S. reports that during an emotionally charged 45-minute news conference that followed a media tour of a Beef Products Inc. plant in South Sioux City, Neb., governors from beef-producing states alternately appealed to and browbeat the media on its coverage of lean finely textured beef.

Nancy Donley, president of STOP Foodborne Illness, whose 6-year-old son died of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome caused by eating an undercooked hamburger said she was there to “stand tall and in support of our dear friends Eldon and Regina Roth” and their company. She praised BPI’s food safety innovations in keeping the types of pathogens that killed her son out of meat products. “These folks save lives.”

Gov. Rick Perry (Texas) asked ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jim Avila to justify his news reporting which is seen by many as a tipping point in media and social media coverage that led to food retailers and school districts rejecting the product, even though it has never been implicated in a consumer illness.

Avila at first refused to answer, but later pointed out that ABC had never reported that the product was unsafe, but focused on the fact that ground beef products were not labeled to indicate the presence of LFTB. To this point, many of the speakers said the product is simply beef and not a filler or an additive.

The emotional pinnacle of the event came when Avila questioned Donley on her organization accepting financial donations from BPI.

Donley said STOP Foodborne Illness has been grateful to BPI’s support “with no strings attached.” She said BPI has never asked her “for anything — ever.” Her voice shook as she said, “No price can be put on my son’s head. I cannot be bought,” to a round of applause.

Gary Acuff, director, Center for Food Safety Texas A&M University addressed the ammonium hydroxide pathogen intervention BPI uses by noting ammonia is used as a leavening agent, in coffee creamers and in chocolate products. He said tofu contains about four times the ammonia that LFTB does.

Acuff also noted that recovering the extra beef from each animal that is made possible by BPI’s process is a sustainability issue. By some estimates, it would take an additional 1.5 million head of cattle to produce the beef that will be lost if the product is no longer in the market. Gov. Perry said the process extracts 10 to 12 extra pounds of beef from each carcass.

Gov. Terry Branstad (Iowa), who yesterday announced he had convinced Hy-Vee supermarkets to return to carrying products with LFTB, said he planned to engage every other major supermarket chain in similar conversations.

How many scientists wouldn’t have loved that level of government and individual support with technologies such as rBST, genetic engineering and irradiation?

The complete press conference can be found at