Beef advocates were busy this week making sure the facts and accurate resources were available to dispel some of the negative press that has hit the beef industry.
Daren Williams, Executive Director of Communications at National Cattlemen's Beef Association, helps train beef producers to advocate for their industry through the Master of Beef Advocacy Program (MBA). With all the negative news this week, he says, graduates of the MBA program stepped up to help get accurate information out with the facts on these different issues so that consumers and producers can make informed decisions. And what creates a greater challenge is that these stories spread through social media and went viral, which requires more eyes and ears to help present the facts.
In case you haven't heard the news, here are two of the stories that have put beef advocates on high alert:
BLBT gets slimed. The first point of attack happened last week when ABC News reported on "pink slime," or boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT) or Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB).
The story claimed that 70% of all ground beef in the retail sector contains the product and featured two former USDA officials who are opposed to the use of the product in ground meat. BLBT is a form of beef that is made by separating lean beef from fat.
"To make the product, beef companies use beef trimmings, the small cuts of beef that remain when larger cuts are trimmed down," explains American Meat President J. Patrick Boyle. "These trimmings are USDA inspected, wholesome cuts of beef that contain both fat and lean and are nearly impossible to separate using a knife. When these trimmings are processed, the process separates the fat away and the end result is nutritious, lean beef. It’s a process similar to separating cream from milk."
In addition, one process uses food grade ammonium hydroxide to destroy bacteria in BLBT. Ammonium hydroxide is used in processing foods like baked goods, cheeses, chocolates and some beef products. This is not the same type of ammonia in household cleaners, according to information on meatmythcrushers.com.
"It is classified as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is approved in most other countries, including the European Union. When used for meat processing, ammonium hydroxide creates an environment that is unfriendly to pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli O157:H7 and provides a significant food safety benefit."
Beef and cattle producers are encouraged to get the facts on BLBT to help counter any general assumptions that exist.
Study links red meat consumption to premature death. Then on Monday, a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine said that eating red meat on a regular basis increased the likelihood of dying early from cancer or cardiovascular disease.
The study tries to predict the future risk of death from cancer or cardiovascular disease by relying on self-reporting about what was eaten and to apply statistical analysis to the data. "This imprecise approach is like relying on consumers’ personal characterization of their driving habits in prior years in determining their likelihood of having an accident that kills them in the future. It has a high likelihood of giving erroneous conclusions," according to the AMI press release.
"Red and processed meat continues to be a healthy part of a balanced diet and nutrition decisions should be based on the total body of evidence, not on single studies that include weak and inconsistent evidence and stand in contrast to other research and to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010," said Betsy Booren, AMI Foundation Director of Scientific Affairs.
Beyond the major weakness of this being an epidemiological study which uses survey data – not test tubes, microscopes or lab measurements–the researchers method of collecting and analyzing their data is highly inaccurate, says AMI.
"Too often, epidemiological findings are reported as ‘case closed’ findings, as if a researcher has discovered the definitive cause of a disease or illness. But epidemiological studies look at a multitude of diet and lifestyle factors in specific volunteer human populations and use sophisticated statistical methods to try and tease out relationships or associations between these factors and certain forms of disease. This method of comparing relationships has many limitations which are widely recognized by researchers in this field. More often than not, epidemiological studies, over time, provide more contradictions than conclusions," Booren said.
Resources & Links
Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) "Pink Slime" Links:
What beef advocates are saying:
- Feedyard Foodie, "Hamburger. It’s What’s for Dinner in the Feed Yard Foodie House!"
- Common Sense Agriculture, "Pink Shirts, Pink Ties and Pink Slime," Jeff Fowle, California rancher
- Food for Thought, "Is Pink Slime Dangerous to consumers?, Hyatt Frobose, Kansas State University
- Buzzard’s Beat, "Pink Slime – It’s Meat," Brandi Buzzard, K-State student
- For the Love of Beef, "Pink Slime," Janice Wolfinger, Ohio farmer/rancher
- I am Ag Proud, "What is Pink Slime and is it Safe?" Ryan Goodman, Univ. of Tennessee student