Workers at Beef Products Inc. (BPI) have launched a Facebook campaign countering attacks on lean finely textured beef (LFTB), saying they hope information about the safety of the ingredient will go viral – as misinformation did last month.
BPI is the world’s biggest supplier of LFTB, but was forced to close three of its four beef processing facilities after retailers decided to stop buying ground beef containing the ingredient. BPI employed about 1,500 people until an ABC news report sparked a wave of bad publicity about LFTB. The BPI plant closures have put about 650 employees out of work.
Jeremy Jacobsen is an employee at BPI’s corporate office, and co-founder of the Facebook group, People for the Truth , which so far has attracted more than 20,400 members. On Wednesday, Jacobsen and a group of colleagues also launched a Twitter handle, @ppl4truth.
“Until March, I was just a regular employee with a regular job,” he said. “…It was hard for me to watch the news because they were cutting in unrelated footage.”
He said he and his colleagues felt completely frustrated as media outlets repeatedly showed one particular image; a soft sausage of what was being dubbed ‘pink slime’ oozing from a machine.
“It’s not even beef,” he said. “It’s mechanically separated chicken.”
‘Messages aren’t carried the way they used to be’
Tom Cother, a plant employee at BPI and co-founder of the employees’ Facebook page, said that he didn’t realize the scope of the bad publicity surrounding LFTB until he found himself in talks about having to shut down.
“I knew we were getting a beating in the social media…so we started using social media to reach out to impacted groups like producers and industry,” he said. “…This is a perfect example of how industry is going to have to recognize that messages aren’t carried the way they used to be. Social media means that messages are carried so rapidly.”
Critics of the ingredient have raised concerns about its safety, mainly due to treatment with ammonia hydroxide to kill bacteria, although the treatment has been approved for use for decades. Many also find the idea of the ingredient unappetizing, even comparing it to dog food – but the BPI employees are determined to spread the message that LFTB is made from beef trimmings, extracted using heat and a centrifuge. On average, LFTB is about 95% lean beef and is combined with other ground beef for use in products like hamburgers.
Plant employee Travis Derochie, who came up with the initial idea of a social media campaign, said: “The messaging we want to get out is this could happen to anybody.”
Access the employees' Facebook group by clicking here .