Maker of ‘pink slime’ launches PR counter-offensive

There’s another side to every story, and the companies behind the recently reviled ‘pink slime’ meat hope you listen to their side, too.


A large producer of lean, finely textured beef isn’t going down without a fight in the viral social media campaign against “pink slime.”

A Lubbock, Texas-based Beef Products Inc. created a response website called beefisbeef.com to offer “truth and reality” to its product, which is unappetizingly being called “pink slime.”

The company also took out a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal defending its product and is relying on third-party experts to fight the campaign.

The beef product has been around for years, but this month social media became the host for parents outraged over the use of the ammonia-treated filler. Hundreds of thousands of people signed an online petition seeking its ban from schools. The U.S. Department of Agriculture relented and decided school districts may stop using it and supermarkets have pulled products with the filler.

Beef Products’ response campaign takes a page out of the new media world, and includes a helpful informational graphic on its site called “Get the Facts: What You Need to Know About Lean Beef Trimmings.”

Most notable in the graphic is the fact that other products in a typical hamburger contain ammonia, from the bun to the cheese to ketchup.

Then the company takes on every question with an honest FAQ, and lists links to third-party sources that have taken umbrage with the campaign.

“I am sure the public is not aware of how widespread and potentially devastating the consequences of allowing public misperception to trump sound nutritional science are,” Barry Carpenter, chief executive officer of the National Meat Association, said in a statement posted on the site.

The company’s director of food safety and quality assurance has been quoted by a variety of publications and wire services this week, too. The message he conveys is that the company is open to honestly answering questions about its products, and stands by the fact that it is safe.

“We produce 100 percent quality lean beef. That’s it. That whole thing is a farce. There’s no substance to it,” said Beef Products’ Craig Letch to the Chicago Tribune.

Beef Products has conducted a smart response campaign, but it might continue to get drowned out by the anti-pink slime cacophony. The hard reality is that the public has spoken loudly and consistently. Beef Products confirmed this week that it has suspended operations at three of its four plants, and it is laying off 600 workers.

Gil Rudawsky heads up the crisis communication/issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. He is a former reporter and editor with 20 years of communications experience. Read his blog or contact him at grudawsky@groundfloormedia.com.

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