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Beefs and Beliefs

"Pink Slime" Price Tag Perplexing

The "pink slime" debacle's slanderous nature is costing beef producers real money.

The chickens are coming home to roost in the "pink slime" debacle. Problem is they're someone else's chickens laying rotten eggs in the beef industry's nest.

My Feedstuffs coworker Rod Smith last week reported that the actual price decline in cattle for pink slime, more correctly called lean beef trimmings or lean finely textured beef trimmings (LFTB), may be moving toward a cost of $10 to $20 per head. That's $10-20 out of your pocket.

Smith quoted Bob Price at North America Risk Management Services Inc. that the controversy will cost the cattle industry $10 per head. But Smith noted other sources say $15-20 is likely.

Only time will tell.

Further, AFA Foods Inc., which has been manufacturing more than 500 million pounds of ground beef per year, has filed for bankruptcy protection and closed its California plant. The company is headquartered in Pennsylvania and continues operating there and in Georgia and New York under bankruptcy protection and special financing.

AFA's chief restructuring officer David Beckman said the company transition its production to “virtually” no use of lean beef trim. AFA said less than 10% of the ground beef it produces uses lean beef trim, but demand for all ground beef has dropped sharply.

Retail prices have come under tremendous pressure with supply-side shortages and with the ongoing weak economy, which normally drives consumers to purchase more ground beef and less of whole-muscle cuts. With the pink slime debacle, that portion of the beef business has been hurt, decreasing overall demand.

This all started as a media feeding frenzy with biased reporting and then social media slander, perhaps even liable. One of the early news reports I've seen on LFTB indicated Beef Products Inc. several years ago was having some problems with its ammoniation safety process, but little more.

I am sickened by this entire event and wonder how people can be so fickle. It reminds me of the War of the Worlds radio broadcast by Orson Welles in 1938, when people panicked, fled their homes, flocked to churches to pray, and generally bought into the fictional account of earth's takeover by Martian invaders.

Will we ever learn to use our frontal lobes to override our knee-jerk reactions?"

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