Officials with Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) have announced plans to permanently close three processing plants, including one in Waterloo that employs 200 people. BPI is the maker of lean, finely textured beef, a product that came under attack earlier this year by critics who’ve referred to it as “pink slime.” Iowa Governor Terry Branstad objects to that term.
Branstad blasted the national media in late March at a press conference following a tour of a BPI plant near Sioux City. “It’s time to end the smear campaign and to stop the use of inaccurate, inappropriate and charged words that are designed to scare people,” Branstad said.
In a statement released Monday, BPI officials said it’s been “much more difficult” than anticipated to restore public confidence in the finely textured beef. While operations will continue at the South Sioux City, Nebraska plant, BPI is shutting down operations at plants in Waterloo, Iowa, Amarillo, Texas and Garden City, Kansas. The move will affect around 650 employees.
Regina and Eldon Roth founded BPI in 1981. Regina said in March that “misleading” media reports led to a sharp reduction in demand for their product. “Our commitment has always been to produce a safe, wholesome product,” Roth said. “So, it has been so disheartening for our family and our employees to see these negative and misleading stories lead to consumer concerns.”
BPI suspended operations at the plants in Waterloo, Amarillo and Garden City on March 26. Production at the South Sioux City facility has continued, but at a reduced capacity.
Lean, finely-textured beef is made from the trimmings left over after steaks and roasts are cut out of beef carcasses. Branstad noted that the product has never caused any illnesses. “I think we’ve just seen it confirmed from our trip through the plant that this is a safe and reliable product. This company has gone out of its way to protect the safety of the consumers and no one has become sick by this product,” Branstad said. The job cuts by BPI are effective May 25.
Governor Branstad released a statement Monday saying it may take “years to correct” what a “ruinous smear campaign accomplishes overnight.” Despite the campaign to defend lean, finely textured beef, most large supermarket chains have not agreed to restock their shelves with the product.