My View From The Country

Make Room For A Bigger, Badder Foe

Anti-modern, anti-capitalist, anti-technology groups are quickly becoming the largest threat to animal production.

Boxed-beef prices rallied substantially early this week, bringing some stability back to the beef markets as the peak grilling season gets underway. Analysts say the rally was confirmation that the media-fueled frenzy over lean finely textured beef (LFTB) is waning.

I haven’t seen any official estimates of what this PR disaster cost the industry, but we do know that hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars were sucked out of the system in the last few weeks. This wasn’t an accident, either; it was a well conceived and orchestrated campaign that utilized an unwitting media to whip the firestorm.

In fact, the campaign’s success probably greatly exceeded the wildest expectations of a faction that’s quickly becoming one of the most threatening alliances against agriculture. This faction encompasses a passel of anti-modern, anti-capitalist, anti-technology groups masterful at creating buzzwords and narratives that obscure their true agenda while rallying well-intentioned consumers and voters to their side.

The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) used to be the master of this strategy; that is, attracting hundreds of millions of dollars from people who actually believe their contributions support animal shelters and help abused animals. Instead, they fund a war chest to battle livestock production.

The animal welfare movement also is masterful at using groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to paint an extreme view. That way, a more mainstream group like HSUS can appear more center-based when it pushes for radical policy.

The anti-market, anti-modern folks do it a little differently, however. They believe in government control of the marketplace, and replacing the market and industry institutions they view as supportive of the industry. To do this, they understand they must affect policy, which entails shaping public opinion. They do this by using the media and populist rhetoric to create “moral” perceptions in order to shape policy that is continually evolving in their direction.

Stepping back, one has to admire their success. They’ve used words like “pink slime” and “factory farming” masterfully.

• The fact is that most people aren’t opposed to a product like LFTB, which reduces costs to consumers, raises prices for producers, and improves the safety and healthfulness of beef; but everyone can hate the concept of “pink slime.”

• In addition, nearly everyone can line up to oppose factory farming and multinational large-scale food production entities. Most of these same people, however, don’t understand that these groups define a “factory farm” as any entity large enough to be economically viable, or that uses modern technology to produce a higher-quality product more efficiently.

These groups champion the little guy, and even get some producers to stand with them. They also castigate the government and government involvement on issues they believe will increase the competitiveness of the industry while, at the same time, pleading for government intervention, rather than letting the marketplace function.

It’s the same concept that the Occupy Wall Street movement employs, which is to create an enemy that is perceived to be a dramatic minority or that is part of the “establishment.”

In fact, these anti-meat groups are successful enough that their message is almost becoming mainstream in the minds of consumers in regard to animal production. Packers are held up to be inherently evil; confined animal feeding units are immoral; and large-scale production is wrong, as is the implementation of modern technologies in food production.

These groups will ally themselves with any group that opposes animal production; yet, they’re not perceived as affiliated with those groups, which increases their credibility. They’ve even been successful in attracting to their cause some producers who don’t understand that they are working for their own demise. It’s for these reasons that these anti-modern, anti-capitalist, anti-technology groups are quickly becoming the largest threat to animal production.

Discuss this Blog Entry 6

VJ (not verified)
on Apr 20, 2012

Who are these groups, the anti-market, anti-modern folks, you are talking about? I was not aware that a single group or organization put the lean textured meat issue front and center.

DebbieLB (not verified)
on Apr 20, 2012

I understand the motives of HSUS--money. What are the motives of this group and what do they call themselves? Are they allied as an organization, or is it a loosely connected group of individuals? Tell me more....I do agree that they can be more dangerous than HSUS.

on Apr 20, 2012

If the people of this org. would mind their own business and use the donated $ on what the $ was intended to be used on they wud be helping neglected animals. Its obvious their misleading the donors and the public that enjoys beef. I hope the public researches the org.s intentions. The beef producers woudnt harm the animals because it would harm their income . Its the people that has the animals and dont feed them and that mistreats the animals that should be targeted.

Anthony Pannone (not verified)
on Apr 20, 2012

You see LFTB as a cheap food source, as in money cheap.

They see LFTB as a cheap food source, as in healthy cheap.

You see corn and beef as profitable.

They see corn and beef as the cause of obesity.

Problem.

How do we solve it?

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 22, 2012

The big question to me is, how do we learn who and where these small groups are so we can try to counter their agendas and ask for open debates?
And HOW do we recognize this factor being it is widespread because the media either is totally ignorant of the facts or have biased reporting, and are always grumbling over the 'government subsidies' not understanding at all how any of it works
.
I've heard people get upset at just those catch phrases and bring up how' the government should take over and quit giving grants and subsidies that the taxpayers foot the bill for, after all, the farmers and ranchers must be making a lot of money since food prices keep going up.'
So, even though we have many programs in place to inform, it is not enough, because these resources of information are not part of any programs away from most ag-related sources, which the general public just listens or watches media and forms an opinion or opinions totally biased and ignorant of facts, based on whatever media they use. How do we nationally promote the reality?

With the bias in society and such supposed "Real truth" sights such as Snopes.com, which has hidden the truth about even our president, and many other things or misinformed if it suits their personal liberal agendas it is a tall order. GOD HELP US!

on Apr 28, 2012

My question as well. Who are these mythical villains?? If you can't name them then i'm inclined to think they exist only in the parinoid imigination of the author.

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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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