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American beef

Probing series into the massive US beef industry

America’s Kansas City Star newspaper has published a hard-hitting investigative series into the current state of the US beef industry, called “Beef’s Raw Edges”. The project was spearheaded by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Mike McGraw. Needless to say, the industry is less than happy with the reports. [Must read for anyone in the meat industry! Ed]

During a year-long investigation, The Star was given rare access to the processing plants of two of the four major US beef suppliers, as well as packing plants and a large-scale cattle feedlot. The resulting stories highlight issues such as non-therapeutic antibiotic use in livestock, the industry’s funding and propagation of pro-beef research and the safety risks of mechanically tenderized steak.

An extract:

Big Beef’s Raw Edges: Beleaguered industry fights back using money, science

By Alan Bavley and Mike McGraw, Kansas City Star – It was here in this thriving New England town that America’s love affair with beef started to lose its sizzle. It was here a half-century ago that obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels were all identified as risk factors for heart disease.

Indeed, it was here that scientists coined the term “risk factor,” triggering the deluge of nutrition research that keeps beef from being “what’s for dinner” in many households. But Big Beef is fighting back. The beef industry has funneled millions into a public relations campaign to cast steaks and burgers as something akin to health food – something you can eat every day, even twice a day.

In its yearlong study of the issue, The Kansas City Star found that Big Beef is: Spending even more money influencing the nation’s dietitians, treating them to junkets and dinners. The industry arranges continuing education programs for nutritionists to spread the gospel immediately after beef-sponsored research is published in scientific journals…

McGraw told Food Safety News that the paper’s investigation unfolded during a fascinating year for the beef industry. Cattle herds were at their smallest since the 1950s. Beef prices were on the rise. And then there was the controversy over lean finely-textured beef — the product derided as ‘pink slime’ — that hijacked mainstream headlines shortly after The Star’s research began.

“I should point out that I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan,” McGraw added. “I love beef.”

The beef industry, however, may not be feeling the love. On Monday American Meat Institute President J Patrick Boyle issued a statement reacting to the series, calling it “a huge disappointment”.

“This was truly unprecedented access to the industry and its operations,” Boyle wrote. “Industry executives provided countless interviews. AMI did its best to answer any question posed and even plotted charts when asked for additional data presented in ways that we didn’t have readily available.”

“We believed that by cooperating, he would see what we saw: a beef industry that provides the safest and most affordable beef supply in the world,” Boyle continued. “We know that we cannot rest on the progress achieved and must always strive to do better, but we find it impossible to reconcile the conclusions reached by the Star with data from CDC, FSIS, OSHA and other agencies.”

McGraw said he did not want to contest the AMI’s statement.

View the entire special beef project here

Memo to AMI boss Patrick Boyle: The media wants to kills your industry, Pat!

Commentary by Bob Messenger, Editor, The Morning Cup…

Can the US beef industry really be this naive? The minute the Kansas City Star and its award-winning investigative reporter Mike McGraw walked through the door of the industry, I would’ve booted their biased butts right back out. But what did the beef industry do? It gave McGraw and the Star “unprecedented access” to the industry and its operations. How clueless can the industry be?

The Star’s resulting investigative report ended up skewering the beef industry…. What boggles the mind is that McGraw was allowed in to begin with. Patrick J. Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute (AMI) called the unflattering report “a huge disappointment” and said he thought by cooperating, the reporter “would see what we saw: a beef industry that provides the safest and most affordable beef supply in the world.”

Patrick, c’mon buddy, after all these years you actually believe Big Media and their reporters, especially award-winning ones, can be trusted to be fair and unbiased? Hell no, they want to bury you, not praise you. They despise Big Business, so I’m flummoxed as to how the Star and McGraw got inside. It should never have happened. And I can’t believe you folks in the beef industry had no clue what they were up to!