Branstad and Vilsack Say So Called "Pink Slime" Is Safe, Some Locals Agree

By Addison Speck, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - After an uproar over so called "pink slime," Governor Branstad and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack went out to prove that it is in fact safe. On Wednesday, Branstad and Vilsack spoke at a news conference in Des Moines about their campaign against what they are calling "misinformation" about the beef product. The two argued it's safe, nutritious and low in fat. Vilsack added that the USDA wouldn't allow the product, if it wasn't safe.

South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc. makes the lean and finely textured beef. But after a recent outbreak of negative publicity and dropped clients, the company decided to temporarily close plants in Waterloo, Texas, and Kansas. On Wednesday, KCRG talked to Nelson's Meat Market and Village Meat Market and café in Cedar Rapids. Neither business uses what's been termed "pink slime", they both grind their own products. However, over the last few weeks both businesses have taken dozens of calls and questions about the lean finely textured beef.

"Only day number four open, but it's amazing that probably about a half dozen or so people have been wondering or commenting on it," said Hugh Lamont, Co-Owner of Village Meat Market and Café.

"I think that's what got into people's mind is the name for it, rather than the good that the product can really do," said Mark Martin, the Owner/Manager of Nelson's Meat Market.

Martin said the product isn't much different from other processed products. "This has been going on for at least maybe 15 years with no ill effect and no problem all we have done is create kind of a mental anguish on this," said Martin. "I'm sure if they would have used a more delicate term probably people's notion of it wouldn't be as harsh," said Lamont.

The product has taken heat not just for the contents, which is a mixture of lean beef trimmings, but what is used to keep it from spoiling. "They treat this with a citric acid or ammonia oxide, if my memory serves me correct, to prevent any spoilage," said Martin. He went on to explain that the company that makes the product, along with other meat companies, use ammonium and citric acid to raise the PH level of the product. That way there is no bacterial growth during processing.

"The ammonium is not household ammonium, it's just done as a gas. So it's not someone pouring a liquid into this product," said Martin.

Despite being USDA approved, it just doesn't sit well with some. But if you take the lean finely textured beef away, people may be dishing out more money for meat.

"When you remove a huge amount of lean meat, that's being used to make the ground beef to the proper percentage of lean meat. The lean meat is going to have to come from somewhere else," said Martin. Those could include using round-steak, sirloin tips, or leaner parts of the shoulder. "It will put a much bigger demand on those produces and then raise the price of those and the ground beef," said Martin.

Both owners admitted they didn't know much about it, until recently. Even though the product has been around since the early 90's. If you are concerned about what meat you are getting, you can always try somewhere local to have a better watch on what is being distributed.
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