Iowa governor wants probe into ‘smear campaign’ against ‘pink slime’

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Political causes are all about branding—and it’s hard to imagine there’s a cause more difficult to take up than defending “pink slime,” the sketchy beef product comprised of spare parts and found as an additive in 70% of ground beef in the US.

But pink slime has come under serious scrutiny lately, and Iowa governor Terry Branstad isn’t about to take it lying down. Last month, when the substance became the target of a massive petition to let schools opt out of serving pink-slime laden meat, Branstad and governor Rick Perry rushed to pink slime’s defense, championing it as wonderful sustenance and vowing to eat it happily themselves.

Now, one month later, with USDA deciding schools will be able to opt out of pink slime and AFA, one of the product’s producers, filing for bankruptcy, Iowa governor Terry Branstad is calling for a Congressional probe into who started a “smear campaign” against pink slime.

“We have a smear campaign going on against a product that is healthy and safe,” Branstad said. “If they get by with this, what other food products are they going to attack next?”

In case you need a reminder, pink slime is made of extra animal parts, with the fat removed by heating it and spinning it in a centrifuge—it was legal only for use in pet food until 2001 because its exposure to fecal matter makes it susceptible to bacteria, but a recently-discovered process of spraying it with ammonia developed by Beef Products, Inc. apparently made it fit for human consumption. Yep, that’s the food whose merits Branstad magnanimously describes as “healthy and safe.” he wants it to stay on the market so desperately that he’s requesting a Congressional probe into who started bad-mouthing it.

As we all know, one of the most effective early bad-mouthers of pink slime was Jamie Oliver. He still dedicates part of his site to eradicating it and he’s even launched a campaign called But as long as he’s seeking a Congressional probe to find the real culprits, Governor Branstad might want to first look in Congress itself. Jamie Oliver’s site notes:

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has assembled the support of 41 House representatives and submitted a sign-on letter asking that USDA discontinue the use of any beef with LFTB in schools, recognizing that that USDA’s offer of a choice to schools may not be a viable solution for all. Senators Robert Menendez (NJ) and Kristen Gillibrand (NY) have also sent letters to the USDA in support.

Why does governor Branstad want to protect pink slime so badly? For starters Beef Products, Inc., the primary pink slime maker, is based in his home state. Washington Post notes that the negative attention around pink slime could jeopardize as many as 650 jobs.

But the Post also notes that Beef Products, Inc. is a major donor to Branstad, having given him $150,000 over the last two years. Beef Products, Inc. has donated $820,750 with all but just over $28K going to Republican candidates. So Governor Branstad has a reason to stick up for slime—but it’s probably not because he loves the taste.