Beef Products Inc. has announced that it is temporarily suspending operations at three of its plants. The facilities in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kan.; and Waterloo, Iowa had been manufacturing lean finely textured beef, which has come under fire as “pink slime” from consumer news media and anti-meat industry activists.

About 200 employees at each of the three plants will get full salary and benefits for 60 days during the suspension. The company's plant at its Dakota Dunes, S.D., headquarters will continue operations, reports the Associated Press.

The company, meanwhile, will develop a strategy for rebuilding business and addressing misconceptions about the beef the company makes, said Craig Letch, director of food quality and assurance for BPI. He acknowledged that the company's business has taken a “substantial” hit since the controversy began. Several large retailer chains have announced that they will no longer buy ground beef containing LFTB, and the USDA has announced that school districts will have a choice on wether or not to buy beef with the product.

"We feel like when people can start to understand the truth and reality then our business will come back," he said. "It's 100 percent beef."

The National Meat Association, of which BPI is a member, issued a statement noting that the shutdown has delivered a significant negative economic blow not only to workers in the beef industry, but to consumers

“At a time when so many Americans struggle to put a healthy, nutritious meal on their family’s dinner table, the unfounded mischaracterization of Lean Finely Textured Beef as ‘pink slime’ is unconscionable,” said Barry Carpenter, CEO of the National Meat Association. “I am sure the public is not aware of how widespread and potentially devastating the consequences of allowing public misperception to trump sound nutritional science are.” .

As the primary source of high-quality, safe, pure 100% lean beef protein, LFTB is used in high-demand products such as 90% lean ground beef, which makes up a significant percentage of all ground beef sold in the U.S. today. To meet consumer demand, NMA notes, the depletion of the supply of lean ground beef must be filled somehow, which may require the slaughtering of thousands of additional cattle or importing beef from outside of the U.S.

Source: AP, NMA