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BPI Fights Back

BPI Fights Back

When ABC News reported about “pink slime” in beef earlier this year, the nation paid attention. Within days of the initial report – which focused on lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) from Beef Products Inc. (BPI) -- moms were petitioning to make sure LFTB wasn’t served in school cafeterias and grocery stores, and fast-food chains pulled their contracts to purchase the beef. The result was that BPI was forced to close three of its four plants, laying off 650 workers and losing 80% of its business in 28 days.

A Closer Look: End The Hysteria! Pink Slime Is A Myth! [3] 

In a Sept. 13 press conference, BPI announced it is suing ABC News for defamation over its coverage of their beef products, citing 11 television reports and 14 online news items relating to BPI and LFTB that were false and misleading, which aired from March 7 to April 3. The company is seeking $1.2 billion in damages. [4]

BPI believes the reports created the wrong impression that LFTB is a chemical product, not beef. Some articles even intimated that this safe beef 100% beef product was a substance scraped off the floor of packing plants, thereby repulsing consumers and creating a horror story in the beef industry. I've read reports that the image of “pink slime” used in so many of the LFTB reports was actually chicken, not beef.

What exactly is LFTB? Let’s Clear The Air On “Pink Slime.”  [5]

The lawsuit filed in a South Dakota state court also sues ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, Jim Avila and David Kerly, as well as the USDA microbiologist who coined the term "pink slime." The challenge will be proving that ABC News actually caused damage to the company, which in my opinion is quite obvious. The loss of hundreds of jobs, the closing of three plants, the rejection of the product in restaurants and schools, and the “pink slime” term that will plague the company for years to come -- yep, that sounds like damage to me.

What to learn more about LFTB? Check out the company’s website, Beef Is Beef [6]

At the end of the day, the beef industry is vulnerable when consumers are confused about our practices. Whether it’s castrating, dehorning, using ammonia to kill bacteria, using implants in feeder cattle or giving antibiotics to prevent diseases -- if consumers have questions about it, and we fail to explain it with both emotional conviction and sound science, the media will do the talking for us. And that could have a huge impact on how we do business in the future. BPI learned this the hard way, and that’s why the company  launched a website explaining the LFTB process. Are we going to wait until it’s too late before we start talking about what we do on our ranches and feedlots?

What do you think about the lawsuit? Is BPI right to go after ABC News? Will this just bring back the whole discussion of “pink slime” again? How do you predict the lawsuit turning out?