The Associated Press March 28, 2012, 10:06AM ET

Governors to tour plant where 'pink slime' is made

The leaders of at least four states plan a visit to the only place where a beef product known as "pink slime" is still made, an effort aimed to support its embattled manufacturer, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry will visit the one Beef Products Inc. plant that's still in operation to combat misconceptions and misinformation about the company and its "lean, finely textured beef" product, company spokesman Rich Jochum said.

Perry will be joined at the South Sioux City, Neb., plant on Thursday by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and South Dakota Lt. Governor Matt Michels.

Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based Beef Products said Monday it is suspending operations at plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa where it makes the low-cost beef ingredient from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts.

The bits are heated and spun to remove most of the fat, and the lean mix then is compressed into blocks and exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. The result is a product, which has been used for years and meets federal food safety standards, that is as much as 97 percent lean beef.

Critics call the product an unappetizing example of industrialized food production and dub it "pink slime."

The company has acknowledged that recent public uproar has cost the company business. Operations have also been reduced at the South Sioux City plant, and company officials said more than 650 people are affected by the shutdowns.

Branstad spearheaded the plant tour. He told the Sioux City Journal that by touring the facilities, the governors and lieutenant governors are showing they have every confidence in the quality of the beef.

"They're been a victim of a smear campaign, and I think we need to do all we can to try to counter this," he said.

Members of the media will not be allowed inside the plant during the tour, Jochum said, but will be able to watch through a video feed.

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