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Let’s Clear The Air On "Pink Slime"

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Beef is safe, despite the media rhetoric.

When the rumor mill stirred up the headline-selling, scaremongering controversy of "pink slime" – more accurately known as lean, finely textured beef – there was a lot of talk about the USDA-approved process, and whether hamburger offered at school lunch programs and at fast-food restaurant chains like McDonald’s was safe. What is pink slime? Is my beef full of chemicals? Do they really scrape meat off the floor to feed my kids?

As consumers demanded answers to these questions, beef producers had their hands full dispelling myths and correcting misinformation.

One of the best resources available was developed by Beef Products Inc., and gives the facts on eight of the most common myths being spread in the news about ground beef.  Check out the website for important facts to keep in mind.

Discover Magazine recently published an article that looks at both sides of the conversation and ultimately concludes that the ruckus came from the media, and the pink slime controversy is nothing to be scared about.

Read the article “It Came From The Media: What Prompted The Ruckus About Pink Slime? And Is It Unhealthy?”

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

“What’s more interesting to me – and what hasn’t been covered especially well in the slime stories – is that foods that are ammonia-processed are remarkably widespread. Among them are breads, pastries, cheeses, chocolates, breakfast cereals, sports drinks, fruits, vegetables….in other words, if we’re going to worry about chemical processing, beef products need to stand in line.

“Even the consumer-advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest isn’t particularly alarmed about pink slime, noting rather depressingly that a lot worse things go into the daily diet. The center does plan to investigate whether the super-processed beef bits are less nutritious than regular beef.

“The real issue here is transparency. Our government should not be colluding with private industry in hiding additives from the consumer. And, in fact, there are signs that the USDA is tending to agree. USDA’s Elizabeth Hagen, emphasized that the product is considered safe and added: ‘It seems to me that the larger issue here is labeling and transparency.’”

Is the issue beef safety? Transparency? The need for better labeling or improved beef quality? Or, is this simply fear-mongering in the news? Weigh in today!

 

Discuss this Blog Entry 13

on Mar 26, 2012

Unfortunately, the damage is done. It is another example of the media running with misinformation and instilling fear into the consumer. And the end result is that the consumer will pay more for a product that is no safer than the previous product.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 26, 2012

unfortunately, the damage is done, however, education of our industry and products must never stop, it is something we as producers, either on the hoof or from the processor need to defend and promote daily, many of our "customers" are far removed from the experience of the processing of our food, we do a great job of the farm life, animal husbandry, humane treatment, but we need to do better on the processing and final product, especially to families, children and educators, thanks for the article well done

Walt Bumgarner (not verified)
on Mar 26, 2012

Sorry Amanda, I usually agree with you, however, this is one where the industry should have seen this coming. This has nothing to do with safety, or whether the product is wholesome. It's perception. You see the pictures of the stuff and your first reaction is YUCK! There is no excuse that we use a product, where the first reaction can be YUCK, just to stretch the last penny out of a carcass. Every school cafeteria manager in my area is basically being forced to tell news reporters that they certainly don't use this stuff in their school cafeteria. I wonder how many are lying.

As the old saying goes, "You wouldn't eat sausage if you saw how it was made." Most people I know of like some form of sausage AND most people I know have no idea how it's made.

This is a product that should have stayed in pet food or the packing industry should have been forth coming and well ahead of this story before the "pink slime" hit the fan.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 26, 2012

For the past four years I have taken a class of college students to tour BPI and learn the process that takes place. Each year my students are amazed at the process from the protein extraction to the high amount of safety precautions in place to produce a safe product. I haven't ever had a student leave and say YUCK or I won't eat those products anymore. The media does more harm than good all to often and this is a perfect example.

RMachen (not verified)
on Mar 26, 2012

Please remember -
the picture that ignited the latest fear mongering campaign against beef (and production agriculture in general) was actually mechanically separated chicken!

Interesting how quiet the poultry industry has been through this process...

BPI did an awesome job of correcting the fallacies and misleading information and provided a great picture of LFTB product.

Unfortunately, while 'pink slime' received front page attention, the truth never even makes it into Section A.

Gabe Thompson Jr. (not verified)
on Mar 26, 2012

I fine it curious why some in the beef industry find it frustrating that the media picks up on stories like this. As a third generation beef producer, in instances like these I ask myself would I use these products to feed my family?

Given a choice between lean GROUND beef and lean TEXTURED beef, there is no comparison which I would choose to feed to my own family.

So why should we as producers expect the consumer to make any different choice?????

We have to understand, ultimately the consumer is king and what we are allowed to do within our industry WILL be regulated by them either through consumer choices or govt regulations.

Perhaps we in the beef industry should be a bit more proactive and require the product we produce for consumers not just "stand in line" with other products, but be a notch above. By all means educate the consumers to the value of our product, but we should not have to make excuses for it.

There are a number of avenues in which the products that are derived from what we produce can be used. As an idustry, lets make the right choices in the eyes of who ultimately determines the profitability of the beef industry, the consumer.

Steve Arp (not verified)
on Mar 26, 2012

Gabe, As a fourth generation cattle producer, I do not have a problem eating lean finely textured beef because I know that it is safe and healthy and is 100% lean beef. The fact that it has a different texture than we are accustomed to doesn't make it better or worse, just different.
From what I have read, the product reclaims 8 to 9 lbs of lean beef from fat trimmings that come from sub-primal cuts. This amount of beef amounts to the equivalent of approximately 1.5 million beef carcasses annually. Are you OK with throwing away 1.5 million beef carcasses each year?! The argument was slanted from the get go by the use of two adjectives that that gave a negative image to the product, just as they intended it. If we had referred to berry flavored yogurt as "pink slime" before it came out, nobody would have eaten it either.
I'm very certain that if the media had referred to this product as "muscle builder" and touted its protein content and nutrient packed nourishment, everybody would have been clamoring to get some despite it's texture.
I'm sure you and I have both eaten some delicious burgers at a restaurant, not knowing that it contained LFTB. I will continue to support the industry that produces this product, because I know it is as good in quality as any other beef out there.
The people that have chosen to slander this product have completely ignored the science involved and the fact that there have been no safety issues with this product. They are appealing to emotion just like the animal rights folks. The media created a story where one never existed, and the uninformed consumer bought it hook, line and sinker. Unfortunately, the media is not willing to allow the meat industry to offer their side of the argument.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 27, 2012

Steve, we each have the opportunity to make the choices we want as consumers.

The product we raise and sell to consumers is one of the higher priced proteins they have to choose from. We in this industry have to maintain a reason for the consumer to pay the extra dollars they do for our product.

Nowhere did I suggest this product be "thrown away" to the equivilent of 1.5 million carcasses. As was stated there are any number of options for the usage of these trimmed lean fine textured beef products.

Nowhere did I suggest we not educate consumers to the safety, nutrition and value of ALL beef in any form in their diets.

What was simply suggested is to remember that consumer perception and as a result their preference is what drives the choices they make.

Indeed we are dealing with a slanted, unscientific agenda from many groups and entities against our product.

In todays age of instant worldwide information, what the consumer preceives ( as a result of fact or fiction) is instantly transfered around the world as seen in this story. Not only does our industry have to be ever vigil in dealing with these issues, we must also realize we need to be proactive in preventing them before they start where we can.

Like it or not, either we can do this proactively or end up dealing with it reactively as was done in this instance. Which will gain us the best end result in the eyes of the consumer and ultimately be best for our industry?

Steve Arp (not verified)
on Mar 27, 2012

Gabe,
I agree with you 100% that we need to proactive rather than reactive.
At the same time I believe that BPI and the meat industry did nothing wrong by adding LFTB to ground beef. It did not diminish the quality or integrity of the beef. Yes, it probably should have been included in the labeling, but then almost nobody would have read it and had any concern, because most people do not research their food that meticulously, me included. And once the smear campaign came along, people would have still been upset with it, because the media only gave a one sided viewpoint on the topic. When I took a look at my sack of bread, it said among many other things, that it had ammonium sulfate in it. That doesn't bother me and I'm sure its been on there for years, but the point is, whoever else read it, nobody has made a news story out of it, but it would not be too late for a crazy journalist to get a hold of the information and do it. And as soon as they did people would boycott eating bread even though it has been on the bag for years.
People will continue to eat burgers without LFTB, and will never be able to tell the difference from the ones that had it, because the perception that it is bad, is only in their mind. This revelation did not come about because somebody said "my burger tastes bad" or someone got sick.
As you said, we do need to do a better job of presenting our side of the story and how our product is produced. At the same time, I do not want to know every processing step in every food I consume and I don't believe most of the general public does either.

RangeCon (not verified)
on Mar 26, 2012

Relating to this story, my wife and I were recently informed that our 8th grade daughter's life science teacher was having the class watch "Food, Inc." as a way to show them how their food gets to the plate. Their intentions were goodm so we politely and professionally shared our thoughts on the necessity of large scale agriculture to meet the needs of a large population. We asked that they not continue using that movie for that type of class, as 'Food, Inc" is at the least biased, and we felt might fit better in an ethics class for older students. The teacher truly appreciated our point of view, and no longer employs "Food, Inc." as a junior high science teaching tool.

True information transparency and education by the overall agriculture industry are key, or others will do it for you from their perspective.

Mark Mulhall (not verified)
on Mar 26, 2012

Weeks ago you put out a survey question asking: would I or would I not purchase this type of meat.

My answer was, "No," and it remains, "No.;"

So, as a living,breathing member and contributor in good standing (I hope) to the "Lame Stream" media, how did you taint, color, inject, pummel or misrepresent my answer?

Mark Mulhall (not verified)
on Mar 27, 2012

Is pink slime wholesome? Yes. Will I knowingly consume it? No.

To me, pink slime is to the meat industry what David Stockman and GHW Bush said trickle down economics is to America-- Voodoo.

Honk and wave as you drive by Truck Haven while on your way to the other restaurant.

Caleb Schultz (not verified)
on Apr 3, 2012

Here are my thoughts from a fellow cow / calf cattle producer.

We are lucky enough to process our own meat, so I will most likely not run across "lean, finely textured beef" products in my house. However, even though I am a big proponent for the beef industry, do you ever think that the industry pushes their processing a little too far with products such as these? To be frank, the images of lean, finely textured beef that I have seen do not pass my own "yuck" factor and I would not prefer to eat these products...and I'm a beef producer. How then can we expect the less agriculturally educated consumer to want to eat these items?

First of all, I respect the highly efficient use of our meat resources and understand the need for science based food safety. However, I completely understand consumers concerns and would prefer to see less processing of my product (such as finely textured beef products) so that my continually narrowing US consumer base, friends and family outside of agriculture continue to respect and demand my beef products.

It seems to me that when the beef industry receives an attack such as this, our immediate response is to fight back, defend ourselves and talk about the lack of education that the general public has. Then we present the facts and science to help quell the discussion and reassure the public that what we're doing is safe and above all efficient. But, when do we simply listen to consumers and say "You're right, this isn't very appetizing?" Even if the science and safety are perfectly aligned, emotions will always dominate the rhetoric and ultimately drive our consumer's buying decisions.

The old adage is that "The customer is always right". Therefore, if the customer doesn't want lean, finely textured beef, why don't we just concede and focus our efforts on providing wholesome and APPETIZING products that the public wants to eat?

I'd love to hear other's thoughts.

Respectfully,
Caleb Schultz

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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