The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Tester promotes Montana beef over 'pink slime'

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont
Sen. Jon Tester
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said this week that the Agriculture Department should use its school lunch budget to buy “high quality Montana beef” rather than buying the ammoniated beef that has become known as “pink slime.”

Tester, who is in a tight re-election campaign against Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., said in a news release that, while USDA recently announced plans to give schools a ground beef option that doesn’t use what is officially called "lean finely texture beef product,” the agency continued with plans to purchase 7 million pounds of the highly processed food product while fast food chains like McDonalds pull it from their inventory.

When announcing that it would provide schools an option to purchase other beef, USDA defended the safety of the processed beef. But Tester said that a 2009 report found that it was four times more likely to test positive for salmonella than traditional ground beef and that “too many questions remain” to serve it to children.

“It is tone deaf and inappropriate to purchase a large quantity of this product to feed children even as it is decisively rejected by consumers,” Tester wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The food that we provide our children should not be over-processed waste, and the quality of the meat created by the process has been called into question.”

Tester noted that he has introduced a Local Food, Farms and Jobs Act that gives schools flexibility to use their USDA commodity dollars on locally-grown foods.

“Montana produces the best beef in the world,” Tester told Vilsack. “Rather than doubling down on hyper-processed products like ‘pink slime,’ USDA should be looking to improve students' meals and local economies at the same time.”

A USDA spokesman noted that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has sent Vilsack a letter praising USDA for offering schools the option to purchase an alternative to the ammoniated beef.