Brownback vs. 'pink slime'

Coming to the defense of the state's beef industry. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback took on "pink slime" this morning.

"This is an unmerited, unwarranted food scare," Brownback said of the nickname for the additive officially known as "textured beef."

"The reason we're even here talking about this is somebody came up with a clever way of naming it . Otherwise, this is a 20-year-old product that has not had a safety issue surrounding it at all."

The name "pink slime" became part of the culture when it exploded on the Internet after the government said it would allow schools to choose whether to serve hamburger containing the additive.

The additive comes from muscle tissue that has been shaved off the bones of beef cattle. After the tissue is heated to melt away the fat, it’s sprayed with a mist of ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria.

The substance has been used as an ingredient in about 70 percent or more of hamburger meat in the United States until recently. Before this month, schools that bought hamburger from the USDA had not been given a choice of rejecting it.

Already several fast food restaurants have moved away from using it, including McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell.

Some of the country’s major grocery chains have already announced they no longer would sell "pink slime" in hamburger, including Kroger, parent company of Dillons supermarkets, and Safeway. Target followed, and Costco said it never has used the beef ingredient.

Brownback, whose state has a $6.5 billion beef industry, will be traveling to Sioux City, Neb. today to tour a beef plant along with governors from Iowa, Nebraska and Texas.

Brownback will be visiting Beef Products Inc. , the main producer of the cheap lean beef that's getting so much criticism.

The company suspended operations at plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa this week, affecting 650 jobs, but it defends its product as safe. Brownback said 300 jobs have already been lost in Kansas.

Brownback predicted that the scare would raise the price of lean hamburger, which may or may not be passed to the producer.

"It's a significant hit for no reason other than somebody came up with a clever name," Brownback said.

Brownback acknowledged that he had been advised to avoid the issue.

"But when you get to the end of the day, this is simply a food scare that's not warranted," he said.