The governors of Texas, Iowa, and Kansas, along with lieutenant governors in Nebraska and South Dakota, are defending the controversial ground beef filler nicknamed "pink slime."
For years, the product has been found in U.S. ground beef, but recent news reports triggered public outrage over the pink, chemically-treated substance.
Major supermarkets across the country pulled products containing pink slime from their shelves, forcing Beef Products Inc., the company that makes the filler, to suspend operations at its plants. The move put hundreds of jobs on the line.
Now, governors in beef-producing states, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, are fighting back. They made their way to Nebraska Thursday to tour the plant where the filler is made in an effort to convince the public the substance is safe.
"Let's call this product what it is, and let 'pink slime' become a term of the past," Perry said.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback agreed.
"It's time to end the smear campaign," Branstad said.
"The reason I'm doing this ... this is an unmerited, unwarranted food scare," Brownback charged.
Beef Products calls the filler "lean, finely textured beef," or LFTB. The product meets federal food safety standards and has been in use since the 1980s.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the recent backlash against LFTB and its producer unfair.
"This product is safe. This product contains less fat and historically has been less expensive," he said.
But critics like Dr. Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with the Consumers Union, said the filler shouldn't even be considered beef, and that it's made from leftover ingredients once used only in dog food.
"People should be much more aware of the foods they're eating," Hansen said.
Meanwhile, Beef Products, Inc., is taking about two months to try and restore confidence in their product. They say if the market hasn't recovered after that time, they will have to fire hundreds employees.
*Originally published on March 30, 2012