LINCOLN, Neb. — Beef Products Inc. will close processing plants in three states this month because of the controversy surrounding its meat product that critics have dubbed “pink slime,” a company official said Monday.
About 650 jobs will be lost when the plants are closed in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kan.; and Waterloo, Iowa, company spokesman Rich Jochum said.
The closures will take effect May 25.
A plant in South Sioux City, Neb., will remain open but run at reduced capacity.
The South Dakota-based company blamed the closures on what it said were unfounded attacks over its lean, finely textured beef. During its processing, bits of beef are heated and treated with a small amount of ammonia to kill bacteria. The filler has been used for years and meets federal food safety standards.
But the company suspended operations in March at the three plants. BPI has declined to discuss financial details, but has said it took a “substantial” hit after social media exploded with worry over the product and an online petition seeking its ouster from schools drew hundreds of thousands of supporters. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided that school districts may stop using it, and some retail chains have pulled products containing it from their shelves.
Company officials hoped to recover but have since realized that doing so wasn't possible in the near future, Jochum said Monday. The company paid its workers during the suspension.
The phrase “pink slime,” coined by a federal microbiologist, has appeared in the media at least since a critical 2009 New York Times report.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has railed against it, and it made headlines after McDonald's and other major chains discontinued their use last year.