By Chabella Guzman
"Pink slime" in your beef? Actually, it is beef. It's the name that is unappetizing, according to Rep. Adrian Smith.
The 3rd District Congressman said science, not emotion, should determine whether the product, also known as "lean finely textured beef," is a safe, nutritious product. Smith said that the processed beef trimmings, which are stripped of excess fat and treated to kill bacteria, are very safe. The process makes maximum use of slaughtered animals. It's just the name that makes it sound bad.
"The regulation the beef industry is following is based on science," he said. "When you look at it, it is very safe. They (beef industry) go through a process and if they didn't, that is when we should be concerned."
Consumers are scared unnecessarily into believing the beef product is unsafe, he said. Taking it off the market eventually drives up the cost of beef and other products, and costs jobs in the meat processing industry.
"The public then makes it worse based on hype, when the product is safe and affordable," he said.
Smith recently signed a letter designed to raise awareness of the safety of the product. In Congress, he has helped start a modern ag caucus that will use science to support new strategies that will help guide policy in agriculture, he said.
Another area Smith said where the public should rely on science more than politics and hype is the XL Pipeline.
The Nebraska Legislature had a special session to review the route, tweak it and move forward as a way to move Canadian tar sands oil to market. President Obama eventually decided to hold off on the route until after the election, he said.
"This speaks to how broken our energy policy is," Smith said. "The benefit of the pipeline would include energy loads for (Nebraska) power companies. It would be good for rate payers."
He discussed worries about a leak in the pipeline over fragile Sandhills pastureland and that some of the oil may end up in other countries and not the U.S. He said the oil would be sold on world markets.
"I can't guarantee where the oil will end up, just as I can't say where a bushel of corn from here may end up," Smith said.
Science and safety technology available today could address many problems that have the public concerned.
"We have 8,000 miles of pipeline already in Nebraska," he said. "And not many problems that I'm aware of from it."
Smith briefly discussed a Veterans Administration plan to close a medical center in Hot Springs, S.D., used by many Panhandle veterans. He and other lawmakers have asked the VA to delay the decision until more information could be gathered. He said he wants to make sure there is a good sustainable system that works and that it doesn't add costs.