We tried to remain neutral on the whole “pink slime” debacle and let the facts tell the story in our March 23 entry on the issue, but we can remain idle no longer. We’re taking a stance: The pink slime crisis has been overblown by the media, resulting in a gross overreaction by the general public.
This is a cautionary tale for marketers.
The facts speak for themselves: Pink slime, also known as lean finely textured beef, is safe for human consumption. The ammonia used in its manufacture does not stay in the meat and is also common in the manufacture of some baked goods, cheeses, chocolates, and puddings.
Regardless, the truth hasn’t stopped the media from sensationalizing the issue and causing the vast majority of meat-eating Americans to rebel against the ground beef filler which, by some estimates, is (or was) found in 70 percent of ground beef sold or consumed in the U.S. The backlash forced McDonald’s and Burger King (among other restaurants) to drop the beef from their menus. Grocery giants like Kroger, Safeway, Wegmans, and Acme have also announced plans to stop selling it. Can’t blame them for catering to the demands of millions of paying customers, right?
As a result, Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), which manufacturers lean finely textured beef, temporarily suspended production at three of its four plants. Another manufacturer, AFA Foods, filed for bankruptcy. Hundreds of employees at both companies are now jobless, although BPI is providing full pay and benefits for 60 days to many of its workers.
But BPI isn’t going down without a fight. The company took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal to set the record straight. It also launched a website – BeefIsBeef.com – to tell the truth about its product. (Don’t miss the page dispelling the “Top 8 Myths of Pink Slime.”) An infograph on the site offers some no-nonsense facts about lean finely textured beef. Among them:
- Lean beef trimmings are “100% beef and processed from beef trimmed from steaks and roasts.”
- “Ammonium hydroxide is found naturally in all proteins we eat – plant or animal – and one of its roles is to prohibit bacteria from forming.”
The infograph also reveals the ammonium hydroxide levels of every ingredient of a bacon cheeseburger. The beef patty contains 200 parts-per-million (PPM), which is half as much as the bun (440 PPM) and four times less than the cheese (813 PPM). Does that mean a revolt against sesame seed buns and sharp cheddar is next?
Activists heralded the struggles of BPI and AFA Foods as victories in the war against a product they call “unappetizing.” That’s right – unappetizing. Of course, anything called “pink slime” is bound to sound unappetizing. You know what else sounds unappetizing? Bovine mammary gland secretions and unfertilized avian ovums. Then again, that’s probably why the industry prefers to call them milk and eggs.