Pink Slime in Beef: Have Consumers Won?

We WinThe first time many American consumers first heard the term “pink slime” was in April last year when chef Jamie Oliver presented a very graphic presentation of the process made to create this beef additive on his “Food Revolution” show on ABC. This despite the fact that the term was coined in 2002 and the product has been around since the late 1980s.

It’s only been since January, however, that media coverage of pink slime has accelerated, causing a consumer uproar against its use in the beef sold in stores, used for school lunch programs, and cooked in chain restaurants. In this case, it seems as if the PR campaign has paid off; by dubbing the stuff “pink slime” instead of its official moniker, lean finely textured beef, the folks opposed to its use have been able to generate alot of news coverage and social media virality.

First McDonald’s announced it would cease using it in its burgers, followed by Taco Bell and Burger King.  Suddenly, a surplus of pink slime was on the market, and who decided to come to the rescue? Your U.S. government, which announced it would be purchasing 7,000,000 pounds to add to the food used for school lunch programs. So … not good for consumers, but okay for our kids? Well played, USDA, well played. To no one’s surprise, the nation’s Moms rose up, an online petition flew across social media feeds, and mere days later the government retreated, kind of. The pink slime would still be purchased, but school districts could opt out of receiving beef with the additive for one with, of course, a higher fat content. Our kids just can’t win, can they? Brown bagging, anyone?

Over the past week, the supermarket chains began to announce policy changes. Safeway, Stop & Shop, Wegmans, more to follow. And now news comes today that Beef Products Inc. is having to suspend operations at three of the four plants that produce the beef additive.

Has a movement towards true food ever been so swift and so successful?  Is this a harbinger for future campaigns that will lead to additional changes in the American food production system? And what will be targeted next?  The all-American hot dog?

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