Pingree’s beef against so-called “pink slime” costs 650 American jobs

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Department of Agriculture Chief – “without any equivocation, this product is safe, and there’s no question about it”

Maine congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s efforts to ban processed lean beef trimmings, otherwise known as “pink slime,” from schools, has led to the closure of three factories in the Midwest, with 650 people losing their jobs.

The food product, which is comprised of “finely textured lean beef trimmings” and treated to remove any potential diseases, is added to other beef products and processed meats as inexpensive beef fillers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of beef trimmings for human consumption.

Representative Pingree has been the leading voice in congress for a recent campaign that resurrected a term coined ten years ago in 2002, calling the meat product “pink slime” a reference to its color and texture. ABC News reported that as much as 70 percent of ground beef products in grocery stores contain the product and school luncheons contained the beef trimmings as well.

Pingree’s fervent campaign against the so-called “pink slime” has led the United States Department of Agriculture, the department in charge of food in public schools, to allow schools to stop using lean beef trimmings, despite the Agriculture Secretary’s own statement that, “without any equivocation, this product is safe, and there’s no question about it.”

The additional public uproar caused by Pingree’s campaign against the product has led to many grocery stores and restaurants pulling the product from their shelves.

As a result, three plants in the Midwest are closing. Beef Products Inc., one of the primary producers of the inexpensive beef product, says they will be forced to shut down locations in Iowa, Kansas and Texas as a result of the negative campaign against them. 650 workers will be out of jobs, the company reports.

Pingree’s campaign against the beef product began in mid-March, when she wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging the department to stop allowing its use in school lunches.

Pingree then recruited many of her fellow colleagues in congress to sign on to a follow-up letter to the Agriculture Secretary a week later urging the complete ban of the beef product in schools. Pingree was able to secure the signatures of 40 fellow members of congress, including Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Dennis Kucinich.

As a result of Pingree’s efforts and the uproar the negative campaign created, the Department of Agriculture has decided that schools can stop using the product, and many stores have pulled it from their shelves as well.

Now it appears that these 650 jobs will be lost due to a controversy that is not based in fact.

In a recent report, Benjamin England, Founder and CEO of FDA consulting firm said that, “The public’s recent outcry to have ‘pink slime’ removed from grocery store ground meat comes from gross-out images on the internet and not from any substantial food safety concerns.”

Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, testified before congress on March 29th, (video linked and below) that the product, “is beef and it is safe, and it has got less fat,” a fact that Pingree and others have chosen to ignore. “I can’t tell you how many times USDA, myself, Dr. Hagen (Undersecretary for Food Safety), and other members of the Food Safety and Inspection Service family have been quoted or alluded to…about the safety of this product,” Vilsack said. “If they make that choice, they [should] make it based on the facts, and that they’re not making it on the assumption and belief that this product is unsafe because it is not.”

The message out of Pingree’s office is a message based on anecdote, with no hard evidence that there is something unsafe about the beef product. “There is only one word for this product: gross,” Pingree said in a statement. Pingree added in her letter that the USDA should ban the beef because, “McDonald’s and Burger King have stopped using [the product] in their food.”

A negative campaign based in anecdotes has led to a harsh fact for at least 650 Americans – they have lost their jobs.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstand knows this all too well, as the leader of one of the states with a production plant impacted by the negative campaign against beef trimmings. “This is a sad day for the state of Iowa,” Branstad told ABC News. “The fact that a false, misleading smear campaign can destroy a company’s reputation overnight should disturb us all.”

The job-killing effects of a negative campaign against a specific food product might especially concern Mainers. Maine’s economy relies heavily on animal based food products, like lobster and fish. Is it possible someone in congress could decide that processed fish are “gross” and “unsafe” and lead a movement against those products?

The campaign against lean beef trimmings suggests it’s possible.

When asked about her campaign against the beef product, Pingree’s office said, “The decline in popularity of pink slime has been driven by consumers and private companies like McDonalds and Burger King who made the decision to stop using the additive even before it became a big story in the news.  Congresswoman Pingree introduced a bill that would require labeling of products containing pink slime (not banning them) because she believes consumers have the right to know what they are buying so that they can make informed decisions.”

Pingree did call for bans of the product however, at least via Twitter. In a March 14th tweet Pingree said, “Just asked feds to ban pink slime in schools. Only 1 word to describe it: gross.”

She also asked Secretary Vilsack in her March 14th letter to, “do everything in your power to eliminate it from school lunch programs around the country.”

In April, Pingree told MPBN reporter Tom Porter, “I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with the product.”

One thing is sure – 650 newly unemployed Americans will have good reason to have a beef with Chellie Pingree.

1 COMMENT

  1. What about the contents of hot dogs? Do they suit her Royal Highness? Since the product (so called pink slime) has been deemed safe, she should keep her evil nose out if it. 650 jobs: remind the voters near the election!

  2. The message out of Pingree’s office is a message based on anecdote. These Progressives love the anecdote. See Lizzie Warren in Massachusetts. 

  3. Her voters are robots. She could be planning to close BIW and they would continue their blind support.

  4. Lance – who gave this piece to you? It is obviously not written by anyone at the MaineWire. You wouldn’t lead with:

    “Maine congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s efforts to ban processed lean beef trimmings…”

    Because we know she is from Maine.

  5. Who said,” There are two things you don’t want to see made-sauage and laws.” ? If laws are made the same way as “pink slime” then we really should lay off all the law makers too.

  6. I love this:

    “The food product, which is comprised of “finely textured lean beef trimmings” and treated to remove any potential diseases”

    The trimmings consists of beef scraps, sinew and connective tissue, which are then turned into a paste and treated with ammonia gas.

    Why ammonia gas? Not to “remove any potential diseases” but to kill them, specifically E Coli. You know – feces. It is not removed.

    Mmmmm! Nothing like a little shit in your hamburger.

  7. The following is not my post, but from another contributor.  His point is valid, and as a site that promotes the free exchange of ideas, I hope The Maine Wire will welcome it.
     
    “I love this:

    The food product, which is comprised of “finely textured
    lean beef trimmings” and treated to remove any potential diseases”.

    Beef trimmings consist of beef scraps and connective tissue,
    which is then turned into a paste and treated with ammonia gas. 

    Why ammonia gas? Not to “remove any potential diseases”, but
    to kill them.  Things like E. Coli- you
    know, feces.  Killed, not removed.

    Mmmm!   Nothing like treated feces in my hamburger!”
    http://www.dirigoblue.com/2012/05/i-have-been-banned-from-commenting-at-mainewire/ 

  8. Hi!

    The Department of Agriculture claims that “pink slime” is safe?

    Wow!  Who in God’s name believes them?

    I most certainly don’t.

    As for Pingree, she probably has a political motive to get involved. Being in the public eye gets her recognition for her next campaign.

    Pingree was recently involved in the Washingtion, DC military sexual assault forum of which my niece (sister’s daughter) was on the show 207 on NBC with Senator Susan Collins (reported by Kathleen Shannon from Washington, DC).

    It shows that Pingree likes to get involved in various issues.

    The primary issue is safety not the amount of jobs lost which is secondary.

    Those who are putting out safe products don’t have to worry about such politicians as Pingree and others.

    Thank you!

    Lise from Maine

  9. Wow…Pingree takes a position based on ignorance and it costs jobs.  I will bet she is just so pleased with her little Fascist self.

  10.  Lisa from Maine, you are dead wrong when you say “Those who are putting out safe products don’t have to worry about such politicians as Pingree and others.”   Don’t forget about the apple “Alar” fiasco.  The fraudulent case against plastic grocery bags.

    The politicians love to act like little Hitlers and make our decisions for us about what they think is for our own good. Look at Michelle Obama nattering on about eating healthy food while chomping down on a 3,000 calories dinner while Barry is eating all kinds of tasty but “bad” food and still probably sneaks a smoke now and then.

  11.  

    And the corollary story goes something like- local
    farmers see uptick in orders, additional workers hired at plants providing healthy
    foods for our children.  Ahhhh, are we
    now eating less or is the food just coming from more healthy sources. .

  12. Gee, if anybody analyzed the content of a lobster’s stomach, I believe we could put that business out of business, too. Go get ’em Chellie!!

  13. It wasn’t Ms. Pingree who cost 650 jobs.  It was consumers who realized just what crap they were eating.  Mainers spend several billion dollars on food each year.  If we spent just 20% of our food money on food produced by Maine farmers, instead of food produced by factories, that would give a great boost to the Maine economy and create jobs right here.  Good riddance, pink slime!

  14.  Exactly right, blue sun.  Those particular jobs may have disappeared, but others will be created in their place.  And just maybe they will be Maine jobs.

  15. Forget about it.  There is nothing you can do politically with something termed PINK SLIME; might as well grind up worms and put them in food……or call it something like ESCARGOT!  yeah, make it French  Pink slime and the favorite of the Governor. 

    If Obama can pork out on SPAM, the original ‘pink slime’, why not a new French cuisine version?

  16. Isn’t ‘lean beef trimmings’ a code word for Fenway Park hot dogs?

    What does Pingree have against the RED SOX?

  17. Who would want their children to eat something known as “pink slime?”  There is all this talk about protecting children….protect them from learning about the gays and about contraceptives!  But go ahead and knowingly let them eat something commonly called “pink slime”  Yeah, that’s good for the kids.

  18. mmm, nothing like big government (USDA) saying treated feces is “nutritious”…

    the Pingree solution?….more central planning and big government to “regulate” (i.e. sanction) treated waste products for human consumption

  19. reputtable news sources are a relic of the past…..we have the internet now, get educated!!

  20. the GOVERNMENT you progressives so depserately love is responsible for letting these corporations contaminate our food supply with treated waste

    I don’t ever let my kids eat “USDA” approved products, why in the world would you abuse your child with spillover, nergative consequences of a bloated, inefficient government that progressives have pushed onto a supposedly free people?

    USDA food = contaminated food

  21. What can you possibly have against Spam.  It s much more than ground and fumigated
    pork, it’s a world renowned delicacy. 
    Down at the café our favorite is the Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay
    sauce, served in a Provençale manner with shallots
    and aubergines,
    garnished with truffle pate, brandy and a
    fried egg on top and Spam.

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