It’s been more than a year since the industry was “pink-slimed,” a term coined by ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer and British food blogger Jamie Oliver. The term, of course, was the sensational characterization of lean finely textured beef (LFTB). LFTB is a 100% beef product produced by a process developed by Beef Products Inc. (BPI) of Dakota Dunes, SD, which separates fat from lean in beef trim. Until the sensational ABC News expose, LFTB was commonly used as an ingredient in school lunch programs and fast-food burgers. The fact is that billions of pounds of the product have been produced and consumed over the years without any reported problems.
The news report, and the resulting social media campaign, created such a hysteria that demand for LFTB dried up, and BPI was forced to close three of its four LFTB plants and lay off 650 employees. BPI then sued ABC News and others for defamation, and that case continues. But the nasty connotation in consumers' minds that beef is tainted with chemicals persists.
In fact, that notion is being perpetuated by Oliver’s most recent musings. His war against the fast-food industry has been largely aimed at McDonald’s, which announced earlier this year that the chain will revise its burger recipe to exclude LFTB.
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Oliver is taking credit for the change. In one of his consumer food demonstrations, he uses a live beef animal, primal cuts of a carcass, a can of spray paint, a clothes washer, and a locked cabinet of chemicals to demonstrate what he calls the “pink slime process.”
Despite the fact that a writer last week deemed the McDouble as one of the best economical and healthy foods, Oliver says the McDonald’s burger is “not fit for human consumption.”
When describing LFTB on his show, Oliver tells a grossed-out public, “Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold in the cheapest way for dogs, and after this process, is being given to human beings.”
The segment was released more than a year ago and has accumulated 2.2 million views. It's again getting some mileage, now that Oliver is taking credit for McDonald’s burger change while promoting his TV show, his campaign, “Food Revolution, and his organization, “Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.”
If you haven’t seen the clip yet, I encourage you to check it out and note how Oliver uses phrases to describe “pink slime.” He says, “This is how I imagine the process to be” and “I’m not sure how much (ammonia and water) is used,” as he splashes the chemicals into a bucket of beef while a horrified crowd looks on.
Again, this is dramatization and fear mongering at its best, and you can bet that it’s Oliver’s cash cow.
I don’t blame him for wanting better food available to the masses, and I believe his heart is in the right place. But he needs to use science, not emotion and personal opinion, when he makes claims about things. America’s beef is safe, and consumers shouldn’t fear that it’s something that it’s not. That's my opinion on this topic; what is yours? What did you think of the clip? How should the industry respond?
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