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Published April 23, 2012, 08:25 AM

Use own judgement with 'pink slime'

MITCHELL, S.D. — The controversy over so-called “pink slime” has taken a drastic turn, as we hear that hundreds of people may lose their jobs in the wake of this media firestorm.

By: Mitchell (S.D.) Daily Republic, Agweek

MITCHELL, S.D. — The controversy over so-called “pink slime” has taken a drastic turn, as we hear that hundreds of people may lose their jobs in the wake of this media firestorm.

Politicians in the region recently have urged consumers to put down their proverbial pitchforks and torches and consider that the ground beef additive is safe for consumption and always has been.

What’s in a name?

Perhaps its nickname is the trouble. The official term for the product is “lean, finely textured beef.”

It’s created by taking small pieces of beef and fat and heating the mixture. It is then spun in a centrifuge to remove excess fat. The resulting product is then sprayed with ammonium hydroxide gas to kill dangerous bacteria and molded into packages to be merged with other meat products, such as hamburger.

Some call it “filler.” Others insist it’s actual “beef.” Either way, it’s been deemed safe for consumption by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A few weeks back, the product became the focus of much discussion on social media sites, and then in the media. In the days since, many have called for boycotts of the product, and that means many could lose their jobs, including hundreds in South Dakota. This is all unfolding to the chagrin of a few politicians, including U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

“This is about a product that USDA has stated is safe for consumption,” Thune said. “. . . As more facts come out and are shown to be the truth, I hope there’s a way of getting the genie back in the bottle.”

We’re not sure that’s possible, but we do feel badly about those whose jobs suddenly are at stake. We’re also worried about rumors that this uproar could adversely affect the price cattlemen receive for their beef.

We remind consumers that lean, finely textured beef isn’t necessarily in the meat they eat.

To each his own, we say. Some stores have it, some stores don’t. Perhaps specific package labeling nationwide is a good idea, allowing customers to decide for themselves whether to buy products that include the additive.

If nothing else, consumers should simply use their best judgment and, most of all, slow down before taking part in the frenzy against pink slime.

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