As I sat down to write a few thoughts on the out-of-court settlement between Beef Products, Inc., or BPI, and ABC News for a news source read by cattlemen—or at least mostly read by cattlemen—I knew I ran the risk of “preaching to the choir” on an important issue. But, I think that once again an issue that seems to only concern one company downstream in the supply chain is also one that affects cattlemen as well.
LFTB suddenly became national news with the ABC story and—through inaccurate statements made by a reporter—gained the name “pink slime.” Few consumers and probably few cattlemen knew about Lean Finely Textured Beef or LFTB prior to this ABC news story. When the story broke, I was immediately taken back by the term “pink slime” and rarely use it today even when discussing this issue. I understood the product and its use in the industry, not to mention the value gained by the industry. From a credibility standpoint, the name “pink slime” was bad for the entire beef supply chain from producer to end-user whether food service or retailer. Simply put, it was a black eye to the entire U.S. beef industry and BPI took the brunt of the impact with three plant closures and hundreds of millions in lost revenue. Over 700 employees lost jobs. All of this from a story without any factual basis!
That is a costly economic impact on BPI, rural America, and the beef industry. This situation happens all too often in the red meat and livestock industry and agricultural production in general. While this settlement is not a jury judgment in the court, it is nonetheless still a win for BPI and the beef industry.
Again, I may be “preaching to the choir”, but it is important to know your industry beyond the front gate. Most issues, whether positive or negative, ultimately will impact consumer perceptions of the industry and you as a participant. With the risk in today’s industry, it’s important to know what goes on beyond the front gate of the ranch.