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Gov. Terry Branstad: The case for 'pink slime'

Governor Terry Branstad pictured in a t-shirt showing his support for the beef industry, accompanied by Ed Greiman and Ross Havens of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association.

Jeremy Hobson: Have you ever heard of lean finely textured beef? What about pink slime? Well they're the same thing -- but the fact that more people have heard of the latter is what concerns Terry Branstad, the Republican governor of Iowa. The recent controversy over the widely-used ammonia treated beef has already sent one beef producer into bankruptcy.

Governor Branstad joins us now from Des Moines. Good morning.

Terry Branstad: Good morning.

Hobson: Now I can't see you in person, but I hear you're wearing a "Dude, it's beef" t-shirt?

Branstad: That's right, given to me by Lt. Gov. Sheehy from Nebraska when we had the big meeting out there with BPI and went through and showed that it's a very good, clean, USDA-approved process that provides this lean, finely textured beef. This is a very positive campaign to get the truth out, and to counter the vicious smear campaign that's been conducted.

Hobson: Well who's running this "vicious smear campaign?"

Branstad: You know, you've got a celebrity chef; you've got some folks that have traditionally been against the consumption of meat. We've asked the agriculture committee in Congress to look into it and see if they can find out more. But a lot of this has been done, kind of a shadowy thing using the social network to get that out there.

That's why we're going to the agriculture students -- it's their future -- and we want to make sure they can counter it. These young people, they know how to use the social media and to counter the vicious rumors and smear tactics with the truth and scientific evidence.

Hobson: Governor, why shouldn't consumers be grossed out by this stuff?

Branstad: Because it's not true. It's a smear campaign; it's all beef. And when people find out not only it's all beef, it's 95 percent lean, they say, "I would like to buy this product because we know it's better and it's healthier." So, just because somebody calls you a smear, you shouldn't believe it. And that's why this is such a clear-cut issue -- because the scientific evidence is all on our side.

Hobson: Do you think that big companies like McDonald's and Taco Bell have bought into the smears then?

Branstad: I think they have responded to uninformed consumers that have been misled. In the case of McDonald's, they are a world-wide company and they want to make sure their product is uniform throughout the world, so their situation may be somewhat unique. But I think a lot of times, these big groups, they tend to respond.

And that's the reason why we think the best way to counter the smear campaign is with scientific evidence, with the knowledge, and certainly the meat experts at Iowa State University, Texas A&M and elsewhere have done a great job of this. And also we as governors who are interested in the beef industry and are interested in safe food for our consumers I think also have a voice in this as well.

Hobson: Now, some people are going to hear you say this and say, "Wait a minute -- Gov. Branstad is just sticking up for an industry that's important to his state and that donated $180,000 to his campaign over the last two years." How do you respond to that?

Branstad: Well, that's what happens when you confront people with the facts, they tend to attack the people that are delivering the message. I as governor certainly am going to fight for jobs in my state, and I believe in agriculture and I believe in the beef industry. We are fighting back with the truth and with scientific evidence, and the only thing they'll do is personally attack and use smear tactics. That tells you a lot about the character of the people conducting the smear campaign, doesn't it?

Hobson: Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, thanks so much for talking with us.

Branstad: You're welcome, thank you.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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