You’ve Been SlimedPosted by Lisa Franzetta, ALDF's Director of Communications on April 2, 2012
It’s easy to see why legions of journalists and bloggers have gleefully jumped on the pink slime bandwagon, offering their commentary on the massive backlash–and backlash-against-the-backlash–regarding the unmasking of “boneless lean beef trimmings,” also known as “lean, finely textured beef,” but most popularly known by its now-infamous nickname, “pink slime.” While human hamburger Hoovers across the nation are gagging over their slime-filled school lunches and drive-thru dinners, cheeky copywriters are in throes of slime-induced ecstasy.
What editor could resist headlines like “Smearing Pink Slime,” or “Is it Time to Embrace Pink Slime?” Who doesn’t want to applaud the dozens of columnists who have independently begun referring to “Soylent Pink” (“You’ve gotta tell them!”). And it was only a matter of time before Jon Stewart proffered alternative monikers including “bovine velvet” and “mulched-up cow corpse.”
What’s the big fuss over pink slime, anyway? The occasional moments of national meat-related shock or fear that have occurred in the aftermath of factory farm exposés or massive food recalls have never had the staying power of the current pink slime outrage. I think Todd Dorman of Eastern Iowa’s Gazette hit the nauseating nail on the head when he suggested “…I think really what we have here is a simple branding issue. ‘Pink slime’ is trending negatively among many key demographic groups, including humans with money.”
Hence the beef industry’s attempts to quell the national gag-reflex over the cheap ground beef additive (made from the scraps of butchered cows that are then treated with ammonium hydroxide) by bringing in the big guns. In a highly publicized photo op at a Nebraska beef plant last week, the governors of Texas, Iowa, and Kansas posed with piles of the processed beef and eagerly polished off slime-filled patties with a relish rarely seen outside of the pathogen-possessed zombies of The Walking Dead.
But it’s hard to get consumers to so quickly stifle the sudden attitude shifts that can occur when, in a pink slime-style media firestorm, we are prompted to move our forks from our mouths, slo-mo style, look down at our plates, and ask the question that the corporate agriculture industry least wants us to ask: “What the hell are we eating?” I’m reminded of the endless hours of You Can’t Do that on Television re-runs I watched on Nickelodeon in the ’80s–when those cute Canadian kids would get showered from above by a mysterious green slime whenever they uttered that magic mantra of ignorance, “I don’t know.” America has been slimed–and to the beef industry’s chagrin, we now want to know exactly what it is they’ve been feeding us.
Is it any wonder that corporate agriculture has been vigorously lobbying for the so-called “ag gag” laws that will criminalize the efforts of activists and whistleblowers who attempt to document and bring to light the myriad food safety violations and animal and environmental abuses that can be found behind closed doors at factory farms? After all, it was cameras shooting the 2008 documentary Food, Inc. that first introduced a subset of American consumers to pink slime, when as explained in The Atlantic, an “exec from Beef Products Inc. (BPI), which makes the pink product officially known as Lean Finely Trimmed Beef (LFTB) proudly welcomed cameras into his futuristic facility, and said that the product is in 70 percent of America’s pre-made burger patties.”
The Atlantic article goes on to observe,
Given the recent bevy of state "ag gag" bills — already signed in Iowa and Utah, and proposed in Illinois — it appears that battle lines are being drawn over the control of information concerning meat processing. These bills would make it illegal to secretly record what goes on in meat processing plants. The forces of anti-slime could provide a boost of energy in opposing these measures.
Slime to the rescue? Let’s hope. At the very moment when consumers are demanding more transparency from their food suppliers, corporate agriculture is attempting to draw an even darker screen over farming practices and food production with an army of ag gag-pushing lobbyists deployed to state houses across the nation. Join the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s efforts to stop them by signing our petition at ProtectYourFood.org. Just as soon as you’ve wiped that slime out of your eyes.