Who Should Meat Workers Sue Over Pink Slime Label?

Certainly not Jamie Oliver, ABC, Diane Sawyer, and Bloggers

Heather Callaghan
Activist Post

Disgruntled Bruce Smith is suing celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, ABC Company, Diane Sawyer, and healthy lunch blogger Bettina Siegal of The Lunch Tray. The former Beef Products Inc (BPI) employee claims “emotional distress” after losing his job at one of four factories devoted to producing lean-finely-texturized-beef (LFTB, aka ‘Pink Slime’) that closed earlier this year. This case follows a previous suit by BPI filed against ABC for over a billion dollars, still pending.

Pink slime is a meat filler made from “ammoniated boneless lean beef trimmings or similar products, which are considered unfit for human consumption until ammonia has been added.” Is it any coincidence that Smith also happens to have a book release up soon called Pink Slime Ate My Job, and that the lawsuit asking $70 grand in damages is providing great coverage for his publication? He is targeting those he feels slandered the industry and created the uproar that drove consumer demand in the ground.

Quick recap of the pending lawsuit:

While unfortunate that these employees lost their jobs, isn’t anger directed at those who sparked consumer outrage misguided? Would “shooting” the messengers help get their livelihood back? The biggest question no one seems to be asking is – Who are the real culprits of the Pink Slime nightmare?

The nightmare doesn’t extend to just the deceived consumers ingesting something unwittingly that they later found revolting. Or paying extra for meat that was “cut” with a harmful filler. It also extends to those humiliated and jobless after consumer rejection when they thought they were diligently fulfilling a great service.

To justify any company, demand for product is needed. Where was this demand? Until this year, hardly anyone knew there could be such factories producing LFTB, doused in ammonia; and, of course, consumers opted out immediately. As with any company deemed obsolete, the doors close – but why was BPI here to begin with?

Perhaps it started with rising meat prices – using LFTB filler out of desperation is plausible, albeit deceitful. A lot of the focus is on capitalism – okay, corporate monopolies do rise up and cause a lot of damage. But who are the ones incubating this growth and turning a blind eye to the damage? The USDA oversees and helps the meat industry, and the FDA deems various types of ammonia processing GRAS (generally recognized as safe). They care not about marketing and consumer demand – they deem what acceptable standard of harmful substance is approved for food without killing us. Furthermore, labeling is not required, because it’s considered part of the process – not an ingredient. The same is true for food irradiation, or else we’d think twice before buying meat with a biohazard sticker.

Really, if the fault of this debacle lies on only its exposure, then that’s a lot of lawsuits. Diane Sawyer only reported the story. Bettina Siegal deserves a lot of credit for her reporting. It was never her intent to put people out of business, but rather believes, “like any other company, BPI should be free to sell its product so long as it continues to do so in a safe — and transparent — manner.”

She says of the lawsuit,

I’m confident the First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans, including bloggers like myself, against meritless attempts at censorship like this one. I will vigorously defend my right, and the rights of all of us, to speak out on matters of public importance and to petition the federal government, as I did through Change.org, to change any policy with which we disagree.

Her petition garnered an impressive quarter-million signatures before its close.

Big Food and the Industrial Factory Farming Complex are currently so top-heavy, they are crumbling in upon themselves. Firstly, if consumers must be deceived in order to produce – it probably shouldn’t exist. Secondly, if one secret getting out creates such a backlash, the product is not desirable  Frankly, it doesn’t matter if it was a healthy product; deceit is the biggest turn-off, and it’s damn right no one has to pay money to ingest an unknown product that is not fit even for animal consumption. Also, big red flag if meat must be treated with caustic chemicals to be called safe in the first place.

The big meat industries can shout “We would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you lousy kids!” all they want; and they do seem to take pleasure in blaming the “threats” of pesky consumers.

Founder of BPI took out a Wall Street Journal ad and called the exposure a “campaign of lies” costing Americans their jobs. But the fact is, it’s filler that wouldn’t be safe unless doused with ammonium hydroxide gas which might not catch newer resistant forms of bacteria. And ammonia ingested in small amounts leads to deadly health defects. No parent would add even a drop of ammonia to dinner, yet this is what children get to eat everyday in National School Lunch Programs (paid by us) thanks to USDA thumbs up.

It is true that if meat didn’t contain a lot of the harmful fillers, we’d be getting a lot less, for a lot more dollars. So be it. Rising prices and budget cuts do not justify health hazards in school lunches. And then to get blamed for justifiable anger is further insult to injury.

That’s why a lot of us still eating meat, who know about the economy and big food issues, don’t mind paying a little more for the care that goes into raising healthy cattle for pasture-fed, local food. The care that gets no help from government subsidies. It’s true free market, true spending, true food. We decentralize with our forks, our free choice and our wallets.

So, it is with great hope that the likes of Bruce Smith find their way, but stop adding derision to those who reported the truth. Leave the burning effigy of Jamie Oliver at home. Instead, turn your eyes on the bloated regulatory agencies who paved the way for this crumbling empire by first grooming Big Ag and big food corporations. These agencies (USDA and FDA) are the ones we pay to supposedly keep us safe.  Sue the individuals escaping scrutiny who said this would be good for us.

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Read other articles by Heather Callaghan Here

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