Governor Terry Branstad and U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack will hold a news conference this afternoon to address the controversy over the textured beef product that critics have labeled “pink slime.”

Beef Products Incorporated shut down three of its plants, including one in Waterloo, after criticism over the product. A release from Branstad’s office says the news conference will “clarify the facts” surrounding the beef product.

The shutdowns put some 650 people out of work. Branstad and Vilsack will address the issue this afternoon, and then Branstad will join governors from Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and South Dakota’s Lieutenant Governor to visit the South Sioux City plant that is still operating and making the product.

The governor’s visit is set for Thursday. Here is the statement Governor Branstad’s’s office released on the Thursday event:

DES MOINES) – A coalition of governors is joining forces to support the U.S. beef industry and set the record straight about lean finely textured beef, releasing a statement and conducting a Beef Plant Tour.

Lean finely textured beef is a 100% beef, 95% lean, nutritious, safe, quality and affordable beef product eaten by Americans for 20 years. The production and food safety technologies employed to make lean finely textured beef are USDA-approved, and it is produced in USDA-inspected meat processing facilities.

Govs. Terry Branstad (Iowa); Sam Brownback (Kansas); Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, standing in for South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who is on a trade mission in China; Dave Heineman (Nebraska); and Rick Perry (Texas) today jointly issued the following statement:

“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. It is unfortunate when inaccurate information causes an unnecessary panic among consumers.

“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.

“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.

“We urge grocery retailers, consumers and members of the media to seek the facts behind lean finely textured beef. Science supports keeping the lean beef product on grocery store shelves for the benefit of American agriculture and consumers alike.”

Already, more than 650 workers in Kansas, Texas and Iowa have been temporarily laid off. According to the National Meat Association, as many as 3,000 American jobs will be affected when suppliers are also factored in.