"Pink slime" label forces beef plant closures

Mon May 7, 2012 10:33pm EDT

The beef product known as pink slime or lean finely textured beef is displayed on a tray during a tour March 29, 2012, of the Beef Products Inc.'s plant in South Sioux City, Nebraska, where the product is made. REUTERS/Nati Harnik/Pool

The beef product known as pink slime or lean finely textured beef is displayed on a tray during a tour March 29, 2012, of the Beef Products Inc.'s plant in South Sioux City, Nebraska, where the product is made.

Credit: Reuters/Nati Harnik/Pool

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(Reuters) - The top U.S. producer of ammonia-treated beef that critics called "pink slime" said on Monday it will close three of its four plants after sales dropped and did not recover following recent attacks on the product.

Beef Products Inc (BPI) will close plants on May 25 in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kansas; and Waterloo, Iowa. Its South Sioux City, Nebraska, plant will continue to operate at a reduced capacity.

More than 650 people will lose their jobs when the plants close, the South Dakota-based company said.

"While we had hoped to be able to resume operation at those plants, that is not going to be possible in the immediate future and the temporary suspension of operations will in fact result in the elimination of those jobs effective May 25, 2012," the company said in a statement.

In March, public outcry erupted over the filler for ground beef, which is made from fatty trimmings that are more susceptible to contamination than other cuts of beef. The trimmings are therefore sprayed with ammonia - more often associated with cleaning products - to remove pathogens such as salmonella and E.coli.

Sales dropped when consumers became aware of the common practice in the industry, despite U.S. Agriculture Department and industry experts saying the beef was safe to eat.

In late March, BPI suspended production at the three plants for 60 days. At that time, BPI spokesman Rich Jochum had said the closure could become permanent.

"This is a direct reaction to all the misinformation about our lean beef," Jochum said then.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad on Monday called the closings a "sad day for the state of Iowa."

"The fact that a false, misleading smear campaign can destroy a company's reputation overnight should disturb us all," Branstad said in a statement.

The "pink slime" controversy also hurt beef sales at Tyson Foods Inc, the company said when it reported quarterly earnings on Monday.

Two of the biggest U.S. supermarket operators, Safeway Inc and Supervalu Inc had said they would stop buying the ammonia-treated beef. Grocery sellers Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Kroger Co also dropped it.

AFA Foods, one of the largest ground beef processors in the United States, filed for bankruptcy in early April, citing the uproar over pink slime.

(Reporting by Bob Burgdorfer; Editing by Gary Hill and Lisa Shumaker)

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Comments (4)
jeff81201 wrote:
Good Lord, Soylent Green, and they want us to buy in that it’s good stuff.

If it’s good enough for Rick Perry, I’m definitely not eating it.

May 08, 2012 1:12am EDT  --  Report as abuse
jane33w wrote:
Will anyone who works at these plants blame the PLANT OWNERS for creating the pink slime problem in the first place? I mean, suppose the plant owners had just stuck with a straight-up honest beef product? Those people would still have jobs.

May 08, 2012 8:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
frapper wrote:
Convert the plants to making dog food. That’s what this “stuff” was originally used for. They just found a way to sell it for more by feeding it to humans.

May 08, 2012 11:15am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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