The nation's school districts are turning up their noses at "pink slime," the beef product that caused a public uproar earlier this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the vast majority of states participating in its National School Lunch Program have opted to order ground beef that doesn't contain the product, lean finely textured beef.

Only three states -- Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota -- chose to order beef that may contain the filler.

The product has been used for decades and federal regulators say it's safe to eat. It nevertheless became the center of national attention after the nickname "pink slime" was quoted in a New York Times article on the safety of meat processing methods. The filler is made of fatty bits of beef that are heated, then treated with a puff of ammonia to kill bacteria.

In response to a public outcry, the USDA said in March it would offer schools the choice of purchasing beef without the filler for the 2012-13 school year. The agency has continued to affirm that lean finely textured beef is a safe, affordable and nutritious product that reduces overall fat content.

Beef Products Inc., the South Dakota company that makes LFTB, said in an emailed statement that the development is not reflective of the quality or safety of the beef it produces.

The company announced this month that it will shutter three of its four plants as a result of the controversy. In the meantime, it has set up a website, beefisbeef.com, to combat what it says are myths about the product.

The Agriculture Department is still accepting orders for the upcoming school year; beef that does not contain the product is expected to cost 3 percent more than beef that contains it.

Schools aren't the only ones rejecting the product. Fast food chains and supermarkets have also vowed to stop selling beef with the product.

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