My View From The Country

BPI Announces $1.2-Billion Lawsuit Of ABC

BPI, the major producer of lean finely textured beef, announces a $1.2-billion defamation lawsuit against ABC.

Beef Products Inc. (BPI), the manufacturers of lean finely textured beef (LFTB), the production of which was decimated by an ABC News-led media firestorm earlier this year, called a press conference yesterday. The purpose was to announce a “major lawsuit regarding defamation of … lean finely textured beef.” BPI is asking for $1.2 billion in damages.

The legal hurdles for defamation are huge. Obviously, the component of proving economic damage will be easy, and there certainly was a tremendous amount of incorrect material presented by ABC as well. But the sad fact is that when the media chooses to ignore facts and sensationalize a story, there’s little recourse for the aggrieved to take, even if a company, its employees, consumers and the public are injured in the process. Some conjecture that this BPI lawsuit is aimed at proving the claims were false, and holding accountable the individuals who distorted the truth, even if the damage done can’t be rectified.

BEEF Video: Consumers, Producers Speak Out On Behalf Of Lean Finely Textured Beef

While this may be the last big act in the LFTB fiasco, the big issue from an industry standpoint is still on the table. How can we prevent such uninformed, inaccurate, ill-intentioned, and well-orchestrated attacks from succeeding in the future?

The list of technologies under attack seemingly grows daily and is threatening the industry’s ability to remain competitive in the process. While science and modern technology can’t be allowed to be simply thrown under the bus to assuage the crowd that believes simpler, less sophisticated production practices are better, we also have come to realize that science means nothing in the face of public/consumer perceptions relative to a technology.

So-called “franken foods” and “pink slime” were game changers simply by the impact of their labels. Meanwhile, other technologies, such as antibiotics and growth promotants, have survived because consumers have received a more balanced view. While superbugs and hormones certainly carry powerful stigmas, consumers generally realize there are two sides to the issue and the science quoted in trying to eliminate these technologies is dubious.

From an industry perspective, it’s not only sound science and technology that are being assaulted, but sound management practices, too. Sadly, our response largely still seems to center on obtaining and following good science.

A Closer Look: What Is Lean Finely Textured Beef?

As an industry, I don’t believe we should ever try to defend a practice that isn’t supported by science, whether it’s animal welfare, environmental protection or food safety. At the same time, we are nothing but foolish if we believe that doing what is right is a sufficient defense against those who wish to eliminate our industry.

We’ve all heard very good cattlemen characterize existing technology this way: “We will use it for as long as we are allowed to use it, then we will quit it.” We should be saluted for making the changes when superior practices or technologies are developed, but we should never sit back and allow perceptions to be formed that reduce the safety and healthfulness of our product, the sustainability of our environment and the welfare of the animals we are trusted with caring for.

Perhaps at some point in the past, we could trust the media and legislative bodies to be effective arbiters between the truth and extremist positions; today that position is naïve at best. The industry isn’t only to be blamed for relying too heavily on the true facts, but also for the way we have framed our messages. For cattlemen, it’s understood that sustainability and profitability are linked to taking care of our customer, the land, animals, etc. While this may be 100% true, framing things in economic terms has proven to be a mistake.

In today’s populism-fueled environment, success is more likely to be regarded as a problem than a reward for honorable behavior in the marketplace. And economic incentives and profitability are, more often than not, seen as signs of abuse or unethical motivation. Economic justifications are pale substitutes for value portrayals in defending good science.

The reality is that while we may have made tremendous strides in producing a healthier, safer, more environmentally friendly product, while always advancing the basic tenet of our industry that the welfare of our animals and the land comes first, we are being demonized instead of congratulated for those successes. We have created a great story; unfortunately, we’ve fallen very short in the telling of that story.

Click here to read the BPI complaint.

Discuss this Blog Entry 11

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2012

At the bottom line, the problem isn't with the leftist, anti-ag (and pretty much anti-reason) press, it's with intellectual laziness and dishonesty among consumers. We live in a society where reality is distorted by an ideological narrative, and a majority of our fellows buy the story hook, line and sinker. Not because the narrative makes sense, but because so many choose ignore reality. They have no need for reality; they have reality tv and viral videos and other people are forced to feed, clothe, and shelter them. So long as a plurality are allowed both to freeload and to vote, I doubt they'll care a whit about objective fact and reality. Our great story can't possibly mean anything to those who live a rich and fulfilling life on Pandora. Unless they come back to earth, reality simply isn't going to interest them.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2012

I would be wary of advocating control of American press, but their fear-mongering of things that have been serving us well for so long has become an end in itself. I keep seeing both the press and the government as promoting policies and practices that lead to weakening of Americans' bodies, minds, and spirits. From where I sit, they do this to provide themselves with job security. As long as they can promote dysfunctional behavior and unsustainable, immoral lifestyles, they can assure themselves of a large and continuing supply of strife and human suffering to profit from -- job security, in other words. The media and much of government only expand and get more entrenched when more honest, law-abiding people can be turned into criminals by creating laws against what they do for a living.

Therefore, I hope this lawsuit is successful and helps convince some in media to be more circumspect about what they sensationalize.

on Sep 14, 2012

The only chance this suit has of being successful is to be decided by a judge only. ABC will push for a jury because they know they have tainted the pool and can sensationalize further in the courtroom. An objective judge would look at the merits of the case. A jury selected from the public? Probably not. I guess I've lost faith in a large part of mankind.

Karel Chiders (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2012

I'm still looking for a brand of dog food that has LFTB as ingredient. I will buy it! This stuff is is sick and wrong as it was being sold... and glad the sheeple was told about it.

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2012

I rest my case.

jess3a3 (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2012

Less than 1% of earths water is drinkable & it takes over 1 million gallons to grow food for 1 cow. Is consuming all the worlds drinkable water & speeding up human extinction for a profit good or evil?

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2012

And I rest it again.

Chris Purcell (not verified)
on Sep 16, 2012

I am not sure where you come up with your information on the water issue but I raise cattle for a living and the majority of grass and hay my cows consume is by natures rainwater.

on Sep 14, 2012

Jess and Karel, sounds like you're part of that large part of mankind.

read this:
http://beefmagazine.com/blog/thoughts-critical-thinking-evaluation?NL=BE...

Sam Johnson (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2012

This needs to happen even if we cannot "win" the case. The industry lost its legal case against Oprah but She changed as a result and never pulled the stunt again. Their is immense power granted in the judicial process: If you have ever spent a whole day being deposed by multiple attorneys you know what I mean. At worst this will be an opportunity to have all involved learn the consequences of their actions and also to learn of their own ignorance. This may be our best teaching opportunity ever, hopefully we will not sell out and settle before the lessons are learned.

Allen Gaspers (not verified)
on Sep 16, 2012

So, this magazine doesn't like to have lies told about a beef product, to further someone's agenda, and yet this is exactly what this magazine, along with the NCBA will do every chance they get with ethanol. Ethanol does not use 40% of the corn crop as this magazine often reports, by the time corn oil, DDGs and the added feed value of the DDGs is figured in it's closer to 20%. But the beef industry continues to tilt at ethanol plants as their main enemy, so when a real threat comes along, they look like dear in the head lights of a locomotive, the industry totally gets run over, and has no plan to defend itself, as after all the only real enemy is ethanol.

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As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.

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Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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