LUBBOCK, Texas – Beef Products Inc. suspended operations at three of the company’s four plants where lean finely textured beef is produced.

BPI will suspend operations at plants in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kan.; and Waterloo, Iowa. The plant in South Sioux City, Neb. will continue operating. The move comes in the wake of several major food-service operations and major supermarket chains announcing they will no longer carry ground beef products that contain LFTB.

The National Meat Association weighed in on the latest development, citing the negative economic impact of the plant closures. NMA said in a statement the move has “resulted in more than 700 workers in Kansas, Texas and Iowa being temporarily laid off, but ultimately impacts more than 3,000 suppliers and others that rely on BPI’s business. Moreover, the ripple effect of this shutdown stands to have a huge impact on everything from farm to fork.”

“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, chief executive officer of NMA. “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.”

Danny Wegman, chief executive officer of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. issued a statement about his company’s decision to stop carrying beef products containing LFTB. He said Wegmans is not removing LFTB products from store shelves, but the company will transition to ground beef without the filler as soon as it's available from the company’s supplier.

“We’ve made a decision to stop selling ground beef that contains Lean Finely Textured Beef,” he said. “Having grown up in the meat business, we have always been proud of our ground beef and eat it ourselves.

“Because of the sensationalism of this issue it has become a concern for our customers. Every decision we make is with our customers in mind,” he continued. “Our commitment remains the same. We will continue to source the best quality ground beef, now without lean finely textured beef.”

The American Meat Institute characterized the situation as “a sad day for the families of those who lost their jobs” and a foreboding omen of things to come at the retail level.

“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,” said J. Patrick Boyle, president of AMI.