Pink Slime: Label or Not???
Apr 09, 2012
John's comment a couple of weeks ago about 'pink slime,' elicited a rather loud exclamation of, "YES!" from me. But, I talked myself out of sending a congratulatory message at that time. Your additional comments today as you answered a question about mechanically separated meat in other proteins prompted an "Exactly!" and a decision to write.
I think a useful add on to all of John's observations is to note that chicken and turkey producers DO list mechanically separated meat on their package labels. As a die hard label reader, I choose to not buy products that use mechanically separated meat. This is where the beef producers are at a disconnect. Many, if not most, consumers may choose to buy ground beef products that include the LFTB/'pink slime.' The key word here is choose. Consumers are not going to accept reassurances that this product is 'safe & wholesome' when the entities putting it in their food do not disclose its presence and fight to continue to not disclose its presence.
I would have thought that this would have been a no-brainer for the marketing folks involved with this issue. They could have forestalled much of the backlash by taking ownership of the undisclosed use of the product. Producers from all sectors of the economy have a bad track record in disclosing harmful, potentially harmful, or unattractive elements in their products. (NB: Observe the proliferation of daytime & late night advertising by product liability attorneys.) A well crafted statement early on in this brouhaha acknowledging the use of the LFTB and why it has not been previously disclosed coupled with a well publicized request to USDA to include a disclosure statement on all packaged ground beef, would have nipped much of this in the bud. Instead this controversy continues almost unabated nearly six weeks from its start. I would counsel the leadership and board members of all beef production organizations to take at least one good course on the principles of effective marketing, and either shop around for new PR contractors or start listening to those folks when situations such as this arise in the future. (We all can rest assured that they shall.)
As a final note, I would refer everyone to the fall out from the Watergate break-in. The Nixon White House stonewalled and denied for weeks. Now ask yourselves, how did that work out for them? If you are too young to remember this incident, just think back to your childhood and ask yourselves, what were the consequences when Mom caught yu doing something she may not have expressly forbidden but you were old enough to know you oughtn't do?
***Editor's Note: Below is a transcript of the Mailbag segment referred to in the viewer comment above...
TIME NOW FOR OUR WEEKLY LOOK INSIDE THE FARM REPORT MAILBAG....MY REFERENCE TO THE PINK SLIME CONTROVERSY PROMPTED THIS QUESTION FROM PAM STONE.
"I SUDDENLY HAD A DISQUIETING THOUGHT: IS THERE "WHITE SLIME" IN GROUND CHICKEN AND GROUND TURKEY?"
CONSIDER THE POWER OF LANGUAGE HERE. THE BEEF INDUSTRY IS IRATE ABOUT THE BLATANTLY DEROGATORY TERM PINK SLIME. BUT THE PROBLEM IS FEW PEOPLE KNEW THE CORRECT NAME WHEN THE PHOTOS STARTED HITTING THE INTERNET. IT IS OBVIOUSLY PINK AND IT LOOKS SLIMY, ALTHOUGH PASTE MIGHT BE A MORE ACCURATE DESCRIPTION. LEAN FINELY TEXTURED BEEF WAS NOT ON LABELS OR WIDELY SPOKEN ABOUT. TO ANSWER THE QUESTION, THERE IS NO WHITE SLIME, BUT THERE IS A SIMILAR MECHANICALLY-SEPARATED PRODUCT FOR POULTRY. IT TOO IS JUST AS SAFE AS WHOLE MEAT.
BUT THE PROBLEM IS NOT THE NAME, DESPITE THE MEAT INDUSTRY MEDIA-BASHING. IT'S ABOUT THE DISGUST REACTION HARDWIRED DEEP IN OUR BRAINS. IT'S WHY I DON'T EAT RAW OYSTERS, FOR EXAMPLE. THE AMMONIA DOESN'T HELP EITHER. ADDING SECURITY TO PROCESSING PLANTS AND EXPECTING RATIONAL ARGUMENTS TO OVERRIDE THIS INSTINCT IS PROBABLY NOT GOING TO WORK.
TWO THINGS NEED TO CHANGE HERE. FIRST CONSUMERS NEED RECOGNIZE THE REAL TRADEOFFS. IF YOU WANT FOOD FAST, EASY, TASTY AND CHEAP, DON'T BE SURPRISED WHEN HOW IT GETS MADE IS A LOWER PRIORITY. THE MEAT INDUSTRY NEED TO GROW UP TOO. THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY IS NOT THE TIME FOR YOUR BUSINESS PLAN TO CONTAIN THE PHRASE "NOBODY WILL EVER FIND OUT".