LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Lean, finely textured beef is real food

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If you have been watching the news lately, you know there is a big debate over Beef Products Inc.’s (BPI) lean finely textured beef (“Dude, it’s real, sustainable beef,” Commentary, April 4). I am employed at a food testing lab, where I work with some of the top food-safety experts in the field. BPI has always been a leader in food safety.

Eldon Roth, president and CEO of BPI, created a technology that would salvage the 5 percent of lean meat trimmed from steaks and roasts that slaughterhouses couldn’t obtain. BPI sells this 95 percent lean product to other manufacturers so they can raise the lean-meat content of their ground beef products. Saying BPI creates a “beef filler” makes the product sound as if it isn’t beef when in fact it is 100 percent beef. Nothing is added.

This meat may have been discarded before, but it never should have been. BPI mists the meat with ammonium hydroxide, which may sound scary to some, but ammonium hydroxide is in numerous foods, including breads and cheeses. A tofu burger has four times the amount of ammonium hydroxide as a hamburger containing BPI’s product. The use of ammonium hydroxide is a safe-kill step that provides additional protection against deadly bacteria that exist in meat.

It is estimated that an additional 1.5 million cows will be needed to make up for the deficit created when viable trimmings are discarded for no logical reason. With this scenario, we will need to import more beef, as the United States already is experiencing a beef deficit. Lean finely textured beef has been in our food supply for 20 years without one case of reported illness.

Experts in the cattle industry and the food-science industry are all in agreement that the attacks on the product amount to nothing short of a smear campaign meant to entertain, not enlighten. It is up to us as consumers to check the facts for ourselves because the media seem to say anything for a story.

VANESSA JONES

Sioux City, Iowa

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