‘Pink slime’ was the term used to refer to cheap beef mince, produced from off cuts and treated with ammonia, then sold to restaurants and schools in the United States.
It gained prominence after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver questioned why American parents were happy to see it used in the US school lunch program.
A commercial media storm erupted over the issue, but it was the power of social media that took the multi-billion-dollar US beef industry to its knees.
US commentator and cattle buyer Steve Kay says there are lessons in the ‘pink slime’ story for Australia.
“There was one blogger, who called herself ‘lunch-box’, she circulated a petition, she got 250,000 signatures, she raised the issue of how could we be feeding this stuff to our children?”
Mr Kaye says while there was nothing wrong with Lean Finely Textured Beef, (‘pink slime’), the industry was caught on the back foot and the product was withdrawn from school menus.
“The US Department of Agriculture didn’t defend the product very quickly and this is one of the lessons of this whole sorry affair. They then give school districts the option to opt out of using it,” he said.
“It was like a tsunami of anti-LFTB, ‘pink slime’ was everywhere as a term, the social media just went crazy. It was all over the social media within days and the industry responded too slowly after the first American Broadcasting Corporation story.
“Too my way of thinking they should have been on the offensive about this, a year earlier.”
“The social media and the ABC story totally sucked up all the air out of any defence the industry and BPI (the manufacturer of LFTB) could put up.
“Within two weeks, BPI was forced to close three of its four plants and they still remain closed to this day.”
He says the experience taught the industry many lessons.
“To be out front, be transparent, every organisation should have a crisis management plan and it should include worst case scenarios, so they can respond within hours if necessary.”
Mr Kaye says the first few hours are absolutely critical and livestock industries ignore social media and consumers at their peril.
Read more at ABC Rural