Beef Products Inc. shut down operations on Monday for 60 days at its plants in Amarillo, Texas; Finney County, Kansas; and Waterloo, Iowa. The top producing company of lean finely textured beef was still informing employees in Iowa about the closure on Monday.
The plant closures were hailed as a victory by activists who had argued that the product was unappetizing, but tempered their jubilance due to the temporary loss of about 650 jobs at a time when the economy was showing signs of recovery.
Rich Jochum, corporate administrator for the South Dakota-based company, said that the temporary closure could become “a permanent suspension.” He said the closures are because of the recent outcry by food activists over its lean finely textured beef.
The Department of Agriculture and industry experts say the meat was safe to eat. Jochum said the company would continue to address the public’s concerns, and blamed media reports and an organized campaign for “bullying” retailers into discontinuing the use of the beef product.
“Other American families will also pay the price at the checkout counter as they see the price of ground beef begin to rise while we work to grow as many as 1.5 million more head of cattle to replace the beef that will no longer be consumed due to this manufactured scare.”
Two of the biggest U.S. supermarket operators, Safeway Inc and Supervalu Inc, have said they will stop buying the ammonia-treated beef.
McDonald’s Corp. stopped using USDA-approved ammonia-treated meat in its hamburger products last summer.
“The demand in the market will hopefully resume,” Jochum said.
Altogether, the plants employ 650 people. The company’s facilities in Iowa and Kansas produce approximately 350,000 pounds of product a day, while the Texas plant puts out nearly 200,000 pounds.
The company’s largest plant, based in South Sioux City, Neb., will remain open and in operation, Jochum said. Before Monday’s closures, BPI employed nearly 1,500 people at its plants and its headquarters in Dakota Dunes, S.D.