Beef Products International (BPI) is facing their biggest public relations disaster yet.
The people have spoken and want nothing to do with their flowery sounding "lean finely textured beef." Kroger Co. chain has added itself to the growing "We do not carry Pink Slime" list as well as countless delis reassuring customers on their signs.
BPI is closing three out of their four branches in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kansas; and Waterloo, Iowa -- South Sioux City, Nebraska will remain open. BPI has one month to placate customers or possibly vanish forever. One month to undue 20 years of silent profit. Profit from supermarkets, fast food chains, and school cafeterias.
But what about the real foxes in the hen house -- the USDA and FDA? And what will happen to the price of "healthy" meat?
America's food regulatory agencies approved, as safe, meat trimmings not fit for animal feed that will only preclude death by food poisoning if first soaked in ammonia -- which is poisonous and not effective against all pathogens, especially newer resistant ones.
Robert Menendez told Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, "The leftover scraps...come from parts of the cow with high exposure to fecal matter."
So the USDA graciously gives school lunch programs the option of not buying meat with filler that literally is not considered fit to feed dogs only after petitions with hundreds of thousands of signatures begged them to remove it. Unlike the producers of pink slime, the regulatory agencies themselves have escaped media scrutiny -- they aren't closing any branches. No PR disaster for them, even though they waved it in for school children as adequate for their nutritional guidelines.
But the truth is, it is not meant for human consumption. Period. And no amount of PR painting can undue the damage of people's trust in the current food industry.
This exposure is already leading to higher meat prices, and there are signs that the beef industry is set to retaliate against an awakening public. A piece in USA Today entitled, "Beef Industry Braces for Loss of 'Pink Slime' Filler" reads more like a beef industry press release as it refers to the hazardous material as a "low-fat beef product" that has been essentially victimized by social media, as if there is not ample evidence to back up the public outcry. An inset image of a BPI worker and his family reads:
The Licons are just one of many families who face an uncertain future after Beef Products International suspended operations at its Holcomb, Kan., plant.
The USA Today report goes on to emphasize that social media is the culprit in all of this, adding nothing factual to refute what the public has come to understand:
'This shows the impact of the social media,' said Kevin Concannon, former director of the Iowa Department of Human Services and now Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. 'There is absolutely no evidence that this product is unsafe, and it is low-fat.'Those comments are nothing more than a desperate attempt to redirect the argument as an appeal to people's programmed positive response toward anything deemed "low-fat," as if the poisonous ammonia bath it receives should be dismissed as a natural consequence of offering something that is ultimately healthy. Moreover, this refrain was echoed by the industry itself, giving further credence to "fat free" being a propaganda point:
'It’s crazy,' said Des Moines meat wholesale Phil Barber of Brewer Meats, which he said has not knowingly used meat with the filler. Barber nonetheless said of the fillings, 'they’re free of E. coli, and they’re 95 percent fat free.' (Source)Beef prices are just coming off all-time highs, and it appears that the industry will use this scandal as justification for surging prices in its wake. According to a spokesperson for the Hy-Vee supermarket chain:
'The industry is telling us that the removal of this filler is the equivalent of losing 1.5 million head of cattle, and cattle already are in tight supply,' said Hy-Vee spokeswoman Ruth Comer. Hy-Vee is pulling ground beef with the 'lean finely textured trimmings,' also referred pejoratively as pink slime, from its shelves.And, again, there is a thinly veiled condemnation of the now-educated consumer. But it certainly sounds like something positive for commodity traders such as Dennis Smith of Archer Financial Services in Chicago:
'Long term the refusal by consumers to use this product (lean finely textured beef) will make less beef available and force prices higher. If that’s what the consumer wants, that’s what they’ll get,' Smith said.So, how many schools will actually opt out of buying pink slime in the face of rising prices? My best guess based on having worked in the public school system and viewing how schools go for the lowest bid on lunch foods -- most schools will not opt out if they have to pay one penny more for slimeless meat. Food quality is one of the first casualties of budget issues.
A similar scenario played out in last season's Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution after he tirelessly overhauled a cafeteria with healthy fresh foods for the same price. He came back to find them serving garbage again. A school lunch program minion also forced him to serve french fries because his seven-veggie pasta only counted as one vegetable according to their guidelines!
Why We Should Laugh At Price Threats
Here's a thought: higher meat prices will put typical staph-infected, radiated hormone-pumped beef neck in neck with grass-fed organic beef prices -- that, amazingly, for all the care that goes into the real happy cows, has only cost a few dollars more per pound this whole time. Grass-fed producers will not be affected by these price hikes -- they've never used filler and their prices are based on the care that goes into their stock. So why pay more for less when the same dollar amount can bring real nutrition?
Our current food mafia is losing ground as the ugly truth continues to spread. If you watched, read, researched, talked about, signed petitions, or shared this food fiasco with anyone -- you're an activist, not a wet blanket! The agencies that take our money to give us poison and call it nutrition should be ashamed, not us.
We vote with our forks -- Decentralize!
Read other articles by Heather Callaghan and Michael Edwards here.