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Pink Slime hamburger-maker BPI quadrupled lobbying since NYT article

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You've been reading a lot about Pink Slime lately (my capitals; our backgrounder here).

Ground zero, I think, for Pink Slime awareness is this 2009 New York Times article "Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned":

Eight years ago, federal officials were struggling to remove potentially deadly E. coli from hamburgers when an entrepreneurial company from South Dakota came up with a novel idea: injecting beef with ammonia.

The company, Beef Products Inc., had been looking to expand into the hamburger business with a product made from beef that included fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil.
Here's a pic of the vats this is done in. Pink Slime has elsewhere been described as (get ready):
the rejected fat, sinew, bloody effluvia, and occasional bits of meat cut from carcasses in the slaughterhouse were a low-value waste product called 'trimmings'.
"Trimmings." Like ... "parts." Maybe BPI stands for "Beef Parts Inc." Ya think?

That Times article is the reason most people even know this ammoniated tripe exists (oops, "sludge"; I don't want to defame tripe). In fact, that Times article caused a problem, a corporate profits problem for BPI:
[G]rocery stores pulled beef containing the filler off the shelves and BPI closed three of its four plants for lack of demand[.]
And we all know the solution to a corporate-profits problem, don't we? You got it — a big-money lobbying & PR campaign.

Which brings us to investigative reporter Lee Fang at Republic Report. Here's Fang's latest on Pink Slime and its small army of well-paid friends (my emphasis):
At the core of the controversy over “pink slime” is a story about corporate corruption. ... Why doesn’t the USDA require school lunches, grocery stores, or restaurants to disclose which food products contain this mystery meat? And if it’s perfectly safe, why have pink slime companies lobbied against bills that would allow industry whistleblowers to speak up?

The answer, again, relates to the influence of money in politics. Beef Products Inc., the top producer of pink slime, has ramped up its lobbying spending since the New York Times helped blow the lid off the controversy in 2009: [chart here] ...

Beef Products Inc. retains a team of lobbyists from the firm Olsson, Frank & Weeda. One lobbyist employed by the firm is Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a former congresswoman from South Dakota and leader of the “Blue Dog Caucus” of pro-corporate Democrats.

Sandlin recently circulated a letter among congressional insiders to defend her client and warn against efforts to bring greater scrutiny to pink slime:
“Dear colleagues, letters have started to circulate on the Hill which perpetuate serious, misleading [sic] information attacking BPI and its product [...] I respectfully request that the senator/representative not sign such letters and also urge their colleagues to get more complete information beyond what recent sensationalized ‘news’ stories have provided.”
... With a regulatory battle looming over disclosure of pink slime in our meat...
One can only hope.

There's more at the Republic Report, including information on indirect lobbying as well, and the frighteningly named "Meat Institute." Do read. There's more on the politics of Pink Slime in this from John and Chris as well.

I think this story isn't going away. It's not drone warfare and dead babies, but it's a perfect emblem of so much that's so wrong — and it has all the elements, a really nasty name (Pink Slime, eww) and the perfect poisonous household cleaner (deadly ammonia) as a key ingredient.

If persistent progressives can't ride this horse to victory, I'm not sure what they can do. After all, even Obama has already half-folded. Let's get the other half.


(To follow on Twitter or to send links: @Gaius_Publius)

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