Quite possibly those 15 minute experts in the general press used the term “meat glue” because they didn’t take the time to learn how to pronounce transglutaminase. Meat glue certainly has more emotional impact on World News Tonight than Trans-gluta-whatever. And some of the Chicken Little reporting signaled their use of fear tactics over the facts.
Coming hard on the heels of the artificially induced hype over LFTB that ginned up some remarkably hysterical reporting that all but killed the product, the press almost seemed to sniff blood in the water – another ratings booster that would continue the sliming of the meat industry! Indeed, some people in our industry were already looking behind TG for what might become the third scandal. After all, ‘mad cow’ had all the earmarks of a bad time for the beef business but rational minds soon turned it into a non-event.
Well, the slime story grew legs because the meat industry thought it would go away. By the time the trade associations and BPI came to their senses and tried to mount a defense, the public relations battle was already lost. No amount of scientific justification was going to change a public that had already made up its collective mind.
This time, though, the American Meat Institute, the industry’s lead-dog on these matters, wasn’t going to take it lying down. All those rumors about the misuse of TG were stuff and nonsense and the AMI had the data to back up their position. Staying well ahead of what could have been a fast decaying curve, the AMI called a press conference and invited everyone to come. The trade press dialed in, of course, and so did the general press. Even ABC’s Jim Avila, the meat industry nemesis who whipped the public into a fine froth over LFTB, was there.
Janet Riley, the face of the AMI when it comes to the press and their go-to person when it comes to press confrontations, led off the conference with a short speech about who, what, where and then turned it over to the top guys at Ajinimoto and FX Technology. Ajinimoto supplies TG, FX supplies a similar product called fibrin.
Dr. Dana J. Hanson More importantly, she turned over the conference to Dr. Dana Henson, a professor at North Carolina State University who knows both products well. Rather eloquently, he explained the science behind the product and allayed some of the unfounded fears that seemed to have been the drivers behind the coverage given by the uneducated press. Ms. Riley, who can turn around an impertinent question from an annoying reporter with the same smile and good humor as Paula Deen can whip up some butter drenched goodie in her Southern kitchen, was there to handle any hostilities. Fortunately, hostile intent wasn’t the general rule of the day.