Pink Slime!  The mere thought of it is disturbing.  But to think that you might have eaten it!  If you’re not a vegetarian, you probably have.

So what is it?  ‘Pink Slime’ otherwise known as “Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB)” is a meat additive made up of processed scraps of beef trimmings and fat treated with ammonia.  It is most often added to ground beef.  Are you craving a burger yet?

In March 2012 a media firestorm erupted when a picture of pink slime went viral and was broadcast all over ABC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets. (Sebastian, 2012).

pink-slime

Even though ‘pink slime’ had been an additive to ground beef in the U.S. for the 10 years prior, the media visuals and the fact that the meat additive was treated with ammonia proved too awful for the public to accept.  Most often ‘pink slime’ was used in school lunches and restaurants.  Consumers became overwhelmingly concerned for their health and the health of their children.  The USDA believed ‘pink slime’ was safe for public consumption, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy the outcry.  The public was simply grossed out.

The largest manufacturer of ‘pink slime’, Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), was forced to shut down plants and lay off workers.   Prior to the debacle, BPI had been producing approximately 5 million pounds of (LFTB) per week. Production was reduced to less than 2 million pounds per week when large purchases from the USDA and other national buyers began  to fall through. (Sanburn, 2013).

BPI did not provide an immediate response to the media firestorm.   Even though the reporting of ‘pink slime’ was bias, based on a former USDA food inspectors claims, BPI’s silence caused them to suffer great financial losses and a damaged reputation.

IF BPI had managed their public relations crisis immediately, they could have had a chance to show the public a different side of the story.  They could have educated consumers and the media regarding the care and safety measures they took in producing their product, and likely reduced peoples fear of health concerns (Espenshade, 2012).  They could have persuaded the public that the former USDA inspector had an agenda and was biased, which could have cast doubt on his claims.

Unfortunately, their silence became a catastrophic business loss.  It also became a lesson on the importance of good public relations crisis management and the importance of providing an immediate response to media situations.

Espenshade, Charlene S. (April 5, 2012). Pink Slime Has Been Public Relations Debacle. Lancaster Farming. Retrieved from http://www.lancasterfarming.com/blogs/Pink-Slime-Has-Been-Public-Relations-Debacle#.UkM1TlOE6no

Sanburn, Josh. (March 6, 2013). One Year Later, The Makers of ‘Pink Slime’ Are Hanging On, and Fighting Back. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://business.time.com/2013/03/06/one-year-later-the-makers-of-pink-slime-are-hanging-on-and-fighting-back/

Sebastian, Michael. (December 27, 2012). The 10 Worst PR Disasters of 2012. PR Daily. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225336

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