Pink Slime Outrage is Not a Vegetarian Plot

The debate over the use of so-called pink slime in ground beef, what industry refers to as lean finely textured beef, is heating up. Over the weekend, the meat industry hosted a massive picnic in Iowa (with what else, free burgers) to show its support for Beef Products Inc, maker of the filler. The event was held, fittingly, at the Tyson Events Center.

Also on Saturday, an op-ed article appeared in the Des Moines Register by State Senator Brad Zaun entitled, “Critics unjustly attack lean meat, put 200 Iowans out of work.” (Actually BPI only announced a suspension of plant operations while the company regroups, and workers are still getting paid.)

In making his case, Zaun wrote:

One critic (Michele Simon) recently summed up the true mission of the crusade against BPI and lean, finely textured beef in an article on the topic: “So let’s hope this week’s groundswell of interest in pink slime inspires Americans to … stop eating ground beef all together.”

My first thought was, that doesn’t even sound like something I would say, where is that from? Then I found the quote from an article I wrote for Grist last month about the ex-BPI worker turned whistleblower Kit Foshee. But my suspicion that it wasn’t quite right was confirmed. Here is the entire quote:

In the meantime, pink slime is just one of many problems with industrialized meat. So let’s hope this week’s groundswell of interest in pink slime inspires Americans to demand labeling, buy organic, or stop eating ground beef all together.

So the full context was a much bigger picture, pointing to other problems with ground beef and suggesting at least three courses of action. Because industry has no interest in being more transparent about how it operates, or providing viable alternatives, it’s much easier to just shoot the messenger. But if you have to distort a critic’s words to make your point, maybe it’s time to rethink your arguments?

Here is the letter to the editor I just submitted to the Des Moines Register:

In his article from March 31, Brad Zaun misrepresents my position by deliberately leaving out a critical part of the sentence: “demand labeling, buy organic, or…”. By deceiving readers in this way, you are perpetuating the same behavior that made so many consumers upset in the first place: hiding the truth.



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