AMES, Iowa — Iowa State Univ. animal science students conducted a “Beef is Beef” rally supporting the continued use of lean finely textured beef (LFTB) and distributed grilled hamburgers containing LFTB to attendees on Tuesday at ISU’s Ames Iowa campus, according to the

In recent weeks, unfounded charges that LFTB is not safe or wholesome has led to a nationwide debate over the use of ammonium hydroxide in the production of LFTB.

During the rally, approximately 24 sign-waving members of Occupy Ames and other groups staged a counterdemonstration denouncing the beef industry and its use of the trimmings. However, as an afternoon news conference approached in the Iowa Farm Bureau Pavilion, the crowd grew and industry supporters far outweighed the protesters.

Many sensationalized national news reports on LFTB fanned a social media frenzy about the additive, which has been determined safe by FDA and USDA plus on the market for two decades.

An audience of approximately 450 heard panel discussions featuring Gov. Terry Branstad, US Rep. Steve King, R-Ia., and beef industry leaders. The ISU Block & Bridle Club and animal science students planned the rally to promote beef as a healthful food. Many speakers urged audience members to use social media to support the product and fight for their livelihoods.

Branstad said the criticism of the 95 percent lean mixture of trimmings has caused damage similar to the problems caused when the H1N1 flu virus was labeled by many in the media as swine flu. “We shouldn’t let [LFTB opponents] smear a quality product,” he said. “The science is clear: There is no health danger here whatsoever. It’s wrong to let people get away with those types of campaigns.”

Students invited Branstad and others to the rally, said John McCarroll, ISU spokesman. “I hear discussion of an issue, not of politics [as some protesters charged],” McCarroll said.