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March 2012 Archive for Out to Pasture

RSS By: Steve Cornett, Beef Today

Read the latest blog from Steve Cornett.

Slimy Journalism

Mar 26, 2012

Don’t hold your breath, but surely we will soon hear Diana Sawyer in Amarillo, using those dulcet, oh-so-sympathetic tones on the families of the 200 workers laid off today when Beef Products, Inc., closed the doors to its plant.

The local news reports that BPI-- the company that pioneered lean, fine textured beef—and the target of Ms. Sawyer’s  recent "pink slime" media frenzy—is closing its plants in Amarillo, Kansas and Iowa, keeping open only one plant in Dakota Dunes.

It looks like BPI will be the latest victim of a media machine that occasionally loses touch with reality. By all accounts, there is nothing wrong with the product except the derisive term used by activists to describe it.

This is a scary part of freedom, if you ask me. Here are a few of places to get more informed:

This all just amazes me. Nobody says there is anything dangerous about this product. It is, apparently, just meat that has been sucked off the fat rather than cut off. Nobody says there is anything scary about using ammonia to adjust pH to create an unfriendly environment for bacteria.

The company claims it dealt with the taste and odor problems that worried me. So apparently, you can’t taste the stuff. So why the fuss? Read, if you don’t mind, some of the comments on that petition site. How ignorant are people?

We all know. It’s the yuck factor associated with that pink slime terminology. The company probably should have started suing as soon as the name was first used. Or maybe it should have trademarked the name and used it with a positive connotation. Anyhow, we can’t blame retail chains and other marketers for wanting to broadcast their disassociatioin with a product that has been so thoroughly, if unfairly, maligned.

But you can blame the current state of journalism or social media hysteria for seeming to take pleasure in using misinformation to ruin a perfectly innocent business.

BLBT Gets Slimed

Mar 08, 2012

Sigh. No doubt you’ve seen the hysteria surrounding the inclusion of Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings in school lunches. If not, Google the term. Oops. You don’t find much, do you? Now try "pink slime" and read a few of the "news" reports. Count the number of activist-types cited, note that there is no evidence anywhere indicating there is anything unsafe about the product and then take a minute to ponder the state of American journalism.

The problem with this modern media is there are too many "reporters" and too many of them are untrained and/or stupid. At about noon Thursday, a Google news search turned up 77 news stories with the term "pink slime." But if you added "Patrick Boyle" or BLBT to the search, you got one hit and it's from the PR Newswire.

PR Newswire would be where Mr. Boyle, the guy at the American Meat Institute every one of those reporters should have called, was shouting the facts into the wind.

About the only thing I found online worth reading was from Alexandra Petri—the pun-loving dish who writes satire for the Washington Post—who does a better job of reporting the facts than the reporters and gets it in perspective.

The rest? Whooboy. I recommend the one from MSNBC. It’s pretty typical in its hyperbolic tone, but a bit clumsier with the facts and background than most of the others:

Notice that it (a) includes ZERO explanation of what the product is and (b) makes the outlandishly ridiculous statement that the product "accounts for 70 percent of all ground beef consumed in the U.S."

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not a big fan of including ammonia-treated beef in school lunches. I remember the sheep farmer who told me he thought lamb consumption fell after World War II because the Army fed so many troops bad-tasting mutton and they came home and refused to eat lamb of any kind.

Giving schoolkids off-flavored meat strikes me as a poor form of long-range planning for an industry, and charging more than necessary isn’t so smart either. But it isn’t going to hurt them. This is a case where somebody comes up with a pejorative term and all at once you’ve got the media’s attention. Remember chicken’s "fecal soup?" Or "mad cow?"

So as far as I’m concerned, they can go back to putting the trimmings in hot dogs and sausage, which, I guess, all these reporters presume are made from ground-up T-bone steak. But in the meantime, don’t have a cow.

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