The war against “pink slime” carries on as companies including McDonald’s, Walmart and Kroger have stopped using the beef filler or curtailed its use. The ammonia-treated product that is technically called “finely textured beef” (some would call it Play-Doh), has caused a firestorm on social media networks like Twitter while its largest producer, Beef Products International (BPI), has cried foul over how the press has portrayed its product.
Now Wendy’s has waded into the debate. On Friday the company ran advertisements in eight major American newspapers that state pink slime was never used in its products. Meanwhile the beef industry is on the offensive, lining up governors and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
In a press release, Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick explained the advertising campaign by saying that the company has only used fresh beef in the 40-plus years the company has been in operation. Ignoring the visual that pink slime holds on consumers, Brolick reminded the public that Wendy’s burgers are “juicier.”
So while Wendy’s sees this controversy as an opportunity to cement its position as the number two hamburger chain in the U.S., BPI is lining up politicos to defend what it claims is a media “smear campaign.”
One of them is failed presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Apparently still inspired by his book “Fed Up,” Perry recently toured a beef processing plant in Nebraska and munched on burgers with governors Terry Branstad of Iowa and Sam Brownback of Kansas. For Perry, though, the press event was just another “oops” moment as, overall, the public has made up its mind.
However one’s opinion on pink slime pans out, the lessons for food companies are clear, similar to discussions over food additives like BPA. Consumers are becoming more and more interested in the path their foods take from farm to table. What they are not interested in are public relations campaigns or detailed academic and government reports that go into painstaking detail of why a food or ingredient is safe. And what they do know is that if it takes ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria and other pathogens in fast food or a store-bought product, they probably do not want to serve it to their family and friends.
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