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U.S. Farm Report Mailbag

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Comments, questions, opinions...this is your chance to speak out regarding anything and everything reported on U.S. Farm Report. Viewer feedback updated regularly.

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?
Sincerely,
Cindy Wilsey
Minneapolis, MN

***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".
 
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COMMENTS (2 Comments)

Rog Ray - Elkhart, IN
Well, according to the GOP's presidential candidates, the Federal Government job is solely wealth protection for its citizens. If this is true, then I see nothing wrong with the FED's approval of LFTB (pink garbage) as an additive to ground beef. But NOT disclosing the added pink garbage to the ground beef is a SIN worthy of going to HELL dead or alive! The least we should do is: EXILE our elected officials!! The only thing our FEDERAL government has accomplished the last years is to sanction corporate SCAMS! The only things that our Governments can regulate semi properly are: TV repair shops and SPEED ZONE TRAPS.
10:12 AM Apr 15th
 
Ric Ohge - Belmond, IA
I think you nailed it by submitting how simple labeling would have, and still would reduce the volume and intensity of negative public reaction. Those who don't want it, can't complain about being misled, while those who don't care...well...don't care. I'm German, so I come from a a culture that uses everything, as I know the Spanish and Cajuns do, as well. We make sausages with less real meat and more additives than this would ever feature...and the Scots with their Haggis? Nothing needs to be added. So, tell everyone what's in it (you might come up with a name not as barfitrocious as "Pink Slime", but also not quite as laughable as "Lean Trimmed Fine Beef"...maybe something like Textured Beef Portions, for instance.), they'll decide and the furor will eventually die.
1:23 PM Apr 9th
 
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