Pink Slime: A Year Later

Charlie Drumheller, a member of Augusta County Farm Bureau,
was one of many Farm Bureau members negatively affected
by the “pink slime” news stories last year.

In March of 2012, ABC News aired a series of television reports on lean finely textured beef, a product used in ground beef that is made from trimmings and on which ammonia is used to remove potential pathogens.  They raised questions about its quality and dubbed it “pink slime,” sparking a public relations furor that roiled social media, consumer advocates and the nation’s beef industry.
A number of fast-food restaurants and grocery retailers – including Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Safeway Inc and Supervalu Inc – also stopped selling ground beef containing the product, even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture and industry experts say it is safe to eat.
Approximately 650 people lost their jobs, and the nation’s beef industry took a very hard hit.
Almost a year later, the beef industry is still trying to recover, while other livestock industries are feeling the effects. ABC News has been hit with several defamation lawsuits from Beef Products, Inc. and others, but will that stop ABC and other news outlets from the next slanted agriculture story?
Charlie Drumheller is a member of Augusta County Farm Bureau.  He has been in the beef industry for forty plus years, primarily in the area of quality assurance and food safety. With the first anniversary of the “pink slime” debacle around the corner, Charlie wanted to share some of his thoughts on the public relations nightmare.

The Pink Slime story was a lot of things, but most importantly, it was effective. Never mind that it was full of distortions and some outright lies. It did deliberately and intentionally damage the meat business.
 While many of you know that you are loosely associated with the meat industry, you may feel that it really didn’t directly affect you. Nothing could be further from the truth, except perhaps the story itself. If you raise livestock, even if it is not cattle, you have been dealt a damaging blow. Let’s examine some ways this story has influenced your ability to profit from your endeavors.
 The value that the packers are willing to pay for cattle is now reduced because of the extra waste that will now be incurred. It is estimated that 13 pounds is now wasted.  Less value for the cattle paid by the packers filters down to the price that the feedlots and backgrounders are willing to pay.
 Perhaps you purchase ground beef from grocery retailers.  The price of ground beef rose more than 15% right after the story hit the media.  Ground beef consumer pricing will remain higher because this option is no longer viable.
 Well, what about the safety of this LFTB (lean finely textured beef)?  This product has been tested every way possible to insure that a safe product is being produced.  It is very simply mechanically deboned meat.  The process has been used for many years.  It is all beef and the ammonium hydroxide that it is treated with is done to eliminate any pathogens.
 Probably the worst fear is that now that a template has been established, what other industries are in the crosshairs now? 

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