Simple lies; complicated truths

Many of the national media outlets spent much of last week as they do every other week: trying to make a story out of a non-story. It is hard for me to understand why they choose to operate that way when there are so many important stories left untold.

A news conference held in conjunction with a coalition of governors’ visit to Beef Products, Inc. drew several reporters. Among national media attending was the one who broke the non-story about lean finely textured beef or LFTB (they called it pink slime) on a national news program earlier in the month. After listening to the news conference then tuning into the 5:30pm national news program that featured a short piece from Mr. Avila, I had to wonder if he was actually reporting from the same event. The non-story that had either topped or come close to topping several nights’ newscasts was buried at the end of the program.

It was sometime in the mid-to-late ‘90s when food consumers began to be scared into or persuaded into knowing more about food production. It was about that time, too, when the quality of reporting from many national news outlets began to fall short. Some make the case that the coming together of biotechnology in agriculture and the introduction and use of the World Wide Web to people everywhere spawned public distrust of agriculture and our food system. A society that trusts something read on a random internet blog before trusting scientific evidence is destined to be hungry and naked.

Knowing where your food comes from is not a bad thing. Most of us want to know our food is safe and of good quality. We care about availability. We care about price. Consumers today are also more concerned about the environment and sustainability practices than they were a decade ago. In recent years, farmers and the agriculture industry as a whole, are being forced to prove themselves – as well as their products and processes – at every turn.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad told media attending the aforementioned news conference that “Inaccurate, inappropriate, and charged words designed to scare people. . .” about the use of Lean Finely-Textured Beef has to stop. “I believe the national media has permeated this discussion with a poisonous tone that is detrimental to the beef industry and the jobs that support it . . . It’s time to end this smear campaign.”

Dr. Gary Acuff, Professor of Food Microbiology and Head of Animal Science Department, Texas A&M University shared his thoughts about the time wasted by those trying to create public distrust of beef. He told reporters that had the same amount of time been used to educate consumers on how to use a meat thermometer, some lives could have been saved.

There have been many comments made in regards to the poor reporting about LFTB in recent days. In my opinion, none better than that made by Gary Sides of Pfizer during the National Institute of Animal Agriculture meeting in Denver last week.

Sides summed it up by saying, “Simple lies are more palatable than complicated truths.”

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