Dodging the Issue and Missing the Point: Pink Slime

LFTB or pink slime is 100% beef. That’s the claim. Is it true? Yes, it did come from a cow and is 95% lean even though the proteins aren’t quite the same and there’s more collagen content compared with ground chuck. Without LFTB would we really need 1.5 million more cattle slaughtered every year to make up for the demand? I really question these calculations and have no idea who did them in the first place. Is the remaining ammonium in the resultant product unsafe? I really don’t think so. Does LFTB make a healthier product because it’s leaner? Sure, but does NOT eating a burger make for a healthier choice too, heck yeah! But does any of this really matter?

No, because that’s not the point. The shoot the messenger and dispel the myths approach is appalling. It’s not surprising that Beef Products, Inc. and the supportive beef industry have stooped to this.

Sure, some people have jumped on the bandwagon thinking this is an inherently vile and unsafe product that must be outright banned. I’m not one of those people. Sure I question the safety because, after all, the trimmings need to be treated with ammonium hydroxide gas to be deemed safe for human consumption. And BPI products have tested positive for E.coli O157:H7 in the past. Luckily, no one seems to have become ill from their products. And it most certainly IS used as a “filler” regardless of its beef is beef status. But the real issue?

Transparency.

Beef Products, Inc. has failed in the transparency department. They didn’t want the product labeled. The guise is that the USDA said it didn’t have to be. But was it that simple? It most certainly was not. Now, instead of saying to the general public, “We understand that it’s an unappetizing process that you were not previously aware of, but we think it has a benefit, here’s why, and we’re going to slap a label on it.”

That level of humility, honesty, and admission of failure at transparency, all in one sentence, was all it would have taken. Instead, BPI gets Terry Branstad (governor of Iowa) and two other governors to speak out for pink slime and against the media “smear campaign.” They make t-shirts saying “Dude, It’s Beef”, make a brand new website dispelling the myths of pink slime, and buy up Google Ads for searches on pink slime. They admit no fault and play the martyr. Oh, poor BPI millionaire CEO who doesn’t like that people find his product unappetizing and don’t like that it was put into ground beef without their knowledge. I have zero sympathy for him. I do have sympathy for any of his plant workers who might be out of a job. That’s on the company for not being transparent. Another example of their lack of transparency involves reporting E.coli and Salmonella testing results. In 2010, they promised to do just that. The company then scrapped the plan. Thanks for the transparency! They’ve also sued Iowa State University (a public university) to prevent release of research a professor did for BPI from coming to light. The list goes on…

I hope the beef industry pays attention to this and learns the right lesson. So far, they have not learned the right lesson and continue the same tired tactics. The right lesson is that humility, honesty, and transparency are more important than crisis management PR campaigns and protecting your bottom line at all costs.

Here’s a superb timeline of BPI and pink slime: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/04/bpi-and-pink-slime-a-timeline/