Campaign about lean finely textured beef (LFTB) "Dude, it’s beef!"
With Beef Month just around the corner, it’s time to get consumers fired up for summer grilling season, which kicks off in May. But, with concerns about beef safety and quality, in regard to the recent media frenzy pertaining to lean finely textured beef (LFTB), producers will have to work to regain consumer confidence.
When the phrase, “pink slime” hit the newsstands, the beef industry quickly fell victim to the impacts of irresponsible journalism, fueled by activist propaganda, which resulted in a crash of the cattle markets, a decline in beef demand and a fearful consumer who is trading in ground beef for ground turkey.
While consumers should be offered full transparency about their foods, too often, they fall victim to media sensationalism that play on emotions, using fear tactics and misleading statements.
Trying to counteract the negativity surrounding the beef industry, Nancy Montross, founder of Beef Bucks, from DeSmet, SD, believes producers have a big role to play in setting the record straight about LFTB and the safety, wholesomeness and quality of ground beef.
“Consumer fears could really impact our industry, especially hurting beef demand this summer,” Montross said. “I toured the Beef Product Inc. facility, and I’m confident our ground beef is safe and healthy. Our job as producers is to get the word out and share the facts with our consumers. This isn’t just a packer or retailer issue; it impacts us on the cowcalf level, too. If our infrastructure suffers, it trickles down to prices at the production level, too. We must share the facts.”
Montross points out that even the graphics used in the latest reports regarding the so-called, “pink slime,” aren’t actually images of beef at all – it’s actually footage from a chicken processing facility. While the dust still hasn’t settled over this controversy, Montross said there are a few things consumers need to know about LFTB:
• It’s 100 percent beef and processed from beef trimmed from steaks and roasts.
• The process removes the fat from the meat, resulting in 94-97 percent lean beef.
• Ammonium hydroxide is found naturally in all proteins we eat – plant or animal – and one of its roles is to prohibit bacteria from forming.
• Ammonium hydroxide is widely used in everyday cooking from baking powder, to cheese and even chocolate.
For additional facts, check out http://beefisbeef.com
To help spread the word, Montross is selling “Dude, It’s Beef!” t-shirts available through Beef Bucks. The shirts come in cyber pink, safety green, athletic grey and safety orange. Youth and adult sizes are available and are priced from $9-12, plus shipping and handling. To order, contact Montross at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
While Montross works to replace the phrase, “pink slime,” with the “dude, it’s beef,” slogan, Daren Williams, executive director of communications for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) believes it’s time to move on and focus on the positive.
“Obviously, it’s been important to respond to the reports surrounding LFTB, but we have been more focused about moving on and talking about the benefits of ground beef,” said Williams. “We have conducted consumer studies that show our customers are more concerned about the diet, nutrition and affordably of buying beef vs. fears on beef quality and safety.”
Although the markets experienced a drop as a result of the LFTB controversy, Williams believes consumers will still be grilling burgers this summer.
“I think we have been successful in getting some balance in the discussion, particularly in the last couple of weeks, with some balanced, accurate reports coming out,” Williams said. “This is the first time we have seen social media play such a huge role in reaction to this. The ability of a couple hundred thousand people to start a petition and illicit such a strong emotional response has been interesting. We think it’s critical for producers to promote ground beef as a high quality, economical, healthy choice for lean protein. Ground beef does fit in a healthful diet without breaking the budget.”
With Beef month (May) coming up, Williams is excited to announce that a new project called, “Beef Community,” will launch – helping consumers understand how beef gets from the rolling pastures of Nebraska, to a feedlot in Colorado, to a grocery store in California and why communities play such a huge roll in producing safe, high-quality beef.
To create momentum with projects like this, Williams engages the participation of producers who are alumni of the checkoff-funded program Masters of Beef Advocacy, an online course which trains ranchers to become advocates for agriculture. With more than 3,000 graduates to date, Williams encourages interested ranchers to get involved. For more information on the program, check out http://www.beef.org/mastersofbeefadvocacy.aspx.
Focusing on the positive, beef producers aren’t going to get “pink-slimed” without a fight. With May beef promotions coming up, focusing on safe, wholesome, budget-friendly ground beef will be key to balancing the conversation and regaining consumer trust in the cattle industry.
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