Beef Products Inc., the South Dakota company facing financial fallout from the social media, television news and blogger-driven campaign against its key product, is going on the offensive with a public relations campaign to restore confidence in the processed ground beef critics call "pink slime."
Govs. Terry Branstad of Iowa, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Dave Heineman of Nebraska and Rick Perry of Texas, along with Lt. Gov. Matt Michels of South Dakota, issued a statement Wednesday calling the campaign against the meat product "media sensationalism" that has caused "unnecessary panic among consumers."
"Our states proudly produce food for the country and the world -- and we do so with the highest commitment toward product safety. Lean, finely textured beef is a safe, nutritious product that is backed by sound science," the statement said.
"By taking this safe product out of the market, grocery retailers and consumers are allowing media sensationalism to trump sound science. This is a disservice to the beef industry, hundreds of workers who make their livings producing this safe product and consumers as a whole."
The statement raised the specter of higher food prices for consumers.
"Ultimately, it will be the consumer who pays for taking this safe product out of the market. The price of ground beef will rise 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."
More than 650 workers have been temporarily laid off in Kansas, Texas and Iowa because of the controversy and the National Meat Association estimates as many as 3,000 jobs could be affected when suppliers are taken into account, Branstad's office said in a release.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has described the beef product as "derived from a process which separates fatty pieces from beef trimmings to reduce the overall fat content." Critics allege the product is made from low-quality scraps and are opposed to the meat's exposure to ammonium hydroxide gas during processing.