It’s easy to frame the ongoing debacle over BPI’s lean beef product as a disaster for industry.
As activists, legislators, foodies and consumer advocates line up to denounce the use of the product, the media has been quick to headline such descriptions as “processed last scrapings of meat and connective tissue after cattle are butchered,” “fatty bits of meat usually reserved for pet food,” and as a symbol of “an industry devoted to additives.”
The fallout from the scathing media coverage has not only forced BPI to shut down plants and lay off workers but it’s forced Pennsylvania-based AFA Foods into bankruptcy. The firm processes more than 500 million pounds of ground beef products a year, with a customer base that includes Wal-Mart, Safeway, Burger King and Wendy’s—companies who couldn’t wait to announce that they’d eliminated use of the product in their operations.
The move didn’t hurt their sales, but it’s killing their suppliers.
Worse, the news coverage not only embraced the phony outrage activists work so hard to gin up—after all, the product’s been widely used for years without a single food-borne illness incident or any culinary hostility—the “outing” of pink slime has been treated as an indictment of the entire industry.
But maye it’s not all bad. Maybe the issue just needs to be re-positioned, the debate re-framed.
Let me explain.
First of all, with our society’s newfound awareness of the eco-footprint of manufacturing, shouldn’t all such industries be working harder than ever to become more efficient, and thus more sustainable? It wasn’t that long ago when most factories simply discarded their “by-products”—ie, waste. Shipping materials off to a landfill or shoveling them into an incinerator was simply a customary, normal part of the manufacturing process.
Now, there are top-down initiatives across virtually every business segment to reduce waste, to reuse any and all resources wherever possible and to recycle any materials of value, rather than throwing them away. That trend is widely touted by companies as evidence of their commitment to “green” manufacturing, but the reality is that economic incentives are what drive such programs.
It’s smarter to capture value, whether energy or salvageable products, from what used to be thought of as waste materials.
In that context, Eldon Roth’s innovative technology for capturing lean protein from materials that used to be conveyored into rendering is not only ingenious but wholly onboard with the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra that progressive businesses are supposed to be pursuing.