The Big Conversation:
Texas officials' focus on Washington and health care reform moved a thousand miles west on Thursday — to Nebraska and "pink slime."
As the Austin American-Statesman reports, Gov. Rick Perry, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and officials from four other states with stakes in the beef industry on Thursday toured a Nebraska plant that makes what critics have dubbed "pink slime," a blend of low-quality beef trimmings treated with ammonium hydroxide and spun in a centrifuge to remove fat.
Recent news reports and a barrage of criticism from consumer activists and, most famously, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver have led several American grocery and fast food chains to stop selling the product within the past year.
Perry and Staples, as well as Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels and Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy, toured the plant to express concern about the criticism's effects on the meat industry. As companies halt production of what the industry deems "lean, finely textured beef," 650 workers have lost plant jobs in Amarillo, Iowa and Kansas, the officials said.
"As governors, we owe it to the people of our states and their employers to ensure no industry succumbs to misinformation and false reports, many driven by ideological opponents with a clear agenda," Perry said in a statement. "Members of the media owe it to consumers to report the facts, so let's call this product what it is and make 'pink slime' a term of the past."
While some critics have targeted the use of ammonium hydroxide in the product's production, Staples said the meat has been deemed safe.
"For more than two decades, this 100 percent beef product has been approved by food safety experts as being safe to eat and enjoy in your home," Staples said in a statement.
Staples also told the Statesman that the criticism could lead to permanent job losses and higher meat prices.
"As we're trying to rebuild our herds, it provides a disincentive to reinvest when you have sensationalism," he said.
- Mitt Romney carved enough time out of his fundraising swing through Dallas on Thursday to endorse Republican Jason Villalba in the primary for House District 114, according to The Dallas Morning News. In a news release, Romney called Villalba a "capable and effective leader" who "will make an outstanding member of the Texas Legislature." Villalba, running for the seat now held by departing Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, will face former state Rep. Bill Keffer and business consultant David Boone in the May 29 Republican primary.
- Planned Parenthood of North Texas has begun construction on a new $6.5 million health center in Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. The center, set to open in 2013, will help meet the growing need for women's reproductive services in Tarrant County, a Planned Parenthood official told the Star-Telegram. Not surprisingly, plans for the center, which will be located close to an adoption center and a school, have upset some Fort Worth residents. "Our concern is this will become a megacenter for Planned Parenthood," said a local pastor. "Our prayer would be that they do not perform abortions at this facility."
- Last year, opponents of Speaker Joe Straus, led by Tea Party forces, urged House members to eject him from his powerful post. But as the Tribune's Jay Root reports, this time they're trying to defeat him the old-fashioned way — at the ballot box, where they hope San Antonio businessman Matt Beebe can unseat the three-term incumbent whom some conservatives have deemed too moderate on issues like abortion, taxes and illegal immigration. Still, Straus claims an enormous fundraising advantage, and he says his conservative credentials shouldn't be underestimated.
“I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” — Rick Perry at the unveiling of the Tejano monument on the Capitol grounds Thursday
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