How Not to Share Your Thoughts

I almost made a big mistake this week…and I’m going to share it with you, wanting to get your feedback, your ideas and your tips on how to handle these situations.

You see, the paper that I write for published an article last week about “pink slime.” As I was reading, my blood pressure was climbing and that vein on my forehead was pulsing…you know what I mean, right?

I was ticked. I was confused. Actually, I think I was just a tad bit hurt. How could this have happened? And so I did what I do best…I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote. But thankfully, I didn’t hit the send button. I stopped, took a breath, and asked a friend outside of the arena to take a look and give me some feedback. That’s when common sense kicked in and I realized that I couldn’t send what I had written. But, I’ll let you read it and then explain:

I was reading the paper on April 1, and thought for sure that someone was pulling a world-class prank on me. I read the “Slime or beef?” op-ed piece, and ended up with indigestion…which is something “pink slime” will not give you.

First of all, let’s correct one thing right off the bat. The product that has been woefully-named “pink slime” is not the result of turning “fatty bits of beef” into a usable product. The end beef product is actually much leaner than usual grocery store ground beef…which is why it’s used to lower the fat percentage.

That’s one nugget of information that could be gleaned from the articles debunking the myths – if one were to care to read them.

And when it comes down to correcting misinformation, I have to apologize for that. I was one of the guilty ones, posting a correct photo of the beef in question. Why? Because if someone were to post a picture of a tomato next to an article about the dangers of apples, wouldn’t you question their research and integrity? But if no one says a thing about it, and people aren’t aware of the difference between tomatoes and apples, they’d never know that the information they are getting is wrong.

Here’s why the picture is so important: No one is questioning the safety of the meat. Every medical and food-safety organization willing to speak out has backed this beef product. No one is questioning the taste of the product. People have been consuming it for years, and never tasting a difference. As was mentioned in the piece, recently a group of governors and other interested parties had a taste-test…and not one had a single complaint.

So, if it isn’t safety and it isn’t taste, then what is it? The only thing left is its visual. And when the wrong visual is being used, how can someone make a fair judgment?

And the “meaty pink noodles” on the plate? They look just the same as any ground beef straight from the grinder. But don’t fear, they lose their noodle look the minute you squash them into a patty.

No, the debacle that has become “pink slime” is a sad story indeed. And I’m not sure the company will ever recover, even though it’s not guilty of anything. It should be a wake-up call to everyone how powerful social media and misinformation can be.

There are many foods made from what was once a “waste” product. Take for instance baby carrots. We used to throw away tons of carrots that weren’t fit for supermarket shelves, whether it be from deformity or blemishes, etc. Now those carrots are whittled down and ate at picnics by the bag-fulls. But no one called them Carrot Compost.

And Pringles, which even tells you on their label that they aren’t potato chips. But no one refers to them as Potato Paste.

The beef industry has strove for years to improve upon its resources and ability to provide healthy, affordable cuts and types of meat for every consumer. New steak cuts and better use of meat is always a goal. Adding a big-name PR firm to handle every piece of misinformation and processing question seems like an expense that we shouldn’t have to tack on to the price of affordable protein. But, I guess that’s what we’re going to need to do.

If you want to see the exact process of how your meat gets to your plate, I have a video on YouTube of a calf being born.

And that’s as close to the beginning as you can get.

Where did I go wrong? Let me count the ways! I was defensive, I was snide, I was a tad bit rude and I was hostile. I might have had some useful information in there, somewhere, but no one was going to get that message. Nope, I sounded ticked and ready to go to battle…and I was. But that’s not how we share our message, that’s not how we educate consumers, and that’s certainly not how we win points with those on the fence.

Future Farmer

I write because of little guys like EJ. His passion for our farm reminds me why I keep on keeping on.

It’s hard to write passionately without ire, especially when a part of your industry is attacked. It’s hard to write factually without being dry. It’s harder yet to marry the two. Yet, all we can do is try. Because no matter how difficult it seems, it’s impossible to have a conversation, if no one is willing to talk.

So, how did my piece for the paper turn out? Stay tuned and I’ll post a link to it tomorrow…and let me know what you think.

5 thoughts on “How Not to Share Your Thoughts

  1. GREAT post! As a fellow Ag agvocate and writer, I have had these exact same thoughts and situations and have been working hard to take a step back for a few minutes before I post or respond. You’re exactly right when you say that we need to make sure we write and educate while being neutral even if we want to respond in a frustrated way. Thank you for reminding us that these do happen and to stay positive! Thank you! Can’t wait to read the actual response!

  2. Thank you, Val! I wrote an article about “pink slime” that I desperately tried to make more factual in an attempt to be less hostile because I was so riled up about it. Then I got a couple comments that if takes an entire paragraph to explain the process of making lean beef trimmings that I was “protesting too much.” So now I am still left with the struggle of balancing emotion/hostility with facts…

    • Yes, it’s tough to balance the two. One of the paper’s claims was that if it was truly just beef, then just call it beef. Wait a minute. The industry didn’t name it “pink slime.” And if they think the name LBFT is too technical, than how are we to distinguish which product we’re talking about? I call hamburger hamburger, roast roast and filet filet. I want you to know exactly what I’m talking about. It sounds pretty silly to say, “My favorite part of beef is beef. And I don’t mind if there’s a little beef mixed in with my beef, if that’s how my beef is made a little healthier.”

      • Amen, Val! I have no problem at all eating a burger with “trimmings” in it. That burger is completely and totally 100% beef and leaner than what it would be without. I read a terrific blog post on Beef Magazine’s website this morning talking about how the industry’s fight against the pink slime smear campaign came a year too late. Made some great points – especially after this week’s potentially devastating news about the cow with BSE in California. The industry jumped on it as soon as the news broke and I guess the media disaster could still come, but so far it’s not looking too bad. Here’s the link in case you’re interested/haven’t seen it…

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