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Beefs and Beliefs

Some Consumers Claim Beef Has An "Ick" Factor

How can a person eat meat but not touch it? Maybe more important, does this represent a marketing opportunity?


This week I've been working on Beef Producer's October marketing issue and reviewing some of the latest consumer studies from the Beef Board.

In one publication titled "Barriers to Beef Selection and Usage" I found something that just rubbed my fur the wrong way.

It appears there are a significant number of consumers who have real problems with touching meat -- not just beef -- and would like to hit the erase button on their reality track so they can forget they are eating the flesh of an animal.

As the authors of the publication state the problem: "Some respondents expressed high levels of anxiety or disgust about touching beef. The underlying fears are the feel and the wetness and the sliminess of the meat."

One consumer is quoted as saying, "I don’t like forming a patty with my hands."

The researchers continued: "For most of these we witnessed a set of instruments (primarily tongs) that became the insulator between the meat and the human. These instruments appeared to provide acceptable protection."

They added that the anxieties over touching meat are not "unique to beef."

Then the researchers added: "One woman, a well-educated 30-year-old teacher in Phoenix, felt that the idea of touching or of cooking or of carving a cut of meat with a bone was simply repulsive. The presence of the bone reminded her that she was eating an animal."

She apparently told the researchers, "Bones make me associate with the animal. It goes back to the [raised-in-confinement] treatment thing."

Mentally, this entire way of thinking hit me like a wet mop in the face; shock, then righteous anger. The idea of eating meat while denying it is animal flesh reeks of a denial so intense my rational mind simply cannot relate.

"You want to do what?"

"You want to eat meat but not touch it?"

"How will you chew it?"

"For that matter, how can you even put it in your mouth?"

Many years ago I read an article in a hunting magazine in which the author suggested people who don't want to get blood on their hands are morally dishonest meat eaters. In general, I concurred then and still do today.

I might even go so far as to suggest this falsity in food perspective seems near the roots of dishonesty which has become so widely sown in our nation these days -- but perhaps that's the prophet coming out in me.

Perhaps the right attitude is the one I'm sure the Beef Board folks are taking and that is to find a way to sell the consumer what she or he wants.

If they want meat, specifically beef, which helps them imagine they live in wonderland and if they are willing to pay for it, we should sell it to them. Profit is a good thing. In fact, profit is paramount.

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