Are some PR problems unsolvable? Take the case of newly famous “pink slime”, more lovingly known as “lean finely textured beef” (LFTB) manufactured by Beef Products Inc. LFTB is a meat filler byproduct comprising meat scraps with the fat removed and then treated with ammonia to kill bacteria. Delicious.
Both company and product have been subject to a social media onslaught and viral petitions by consumers worried about food integrity and safety. Stores and food suppliers have said they will cease carrying the product because of consumer safety concerns.
Beef Products Inc., manufacturer of the beef filler has suspended production and has launched a PR campaign to defend its widely used product. They are fighting back as campaigners got the upper hand with the words “pink slime” working their way into every article.
The PR Verdict: “C” for Beef Products Inc for a reasonable strategy in explaining a difficult message. At a press conference a spokesperson snapped, “What do you want us to label it? I’m not prepared to say it’s not beef because it’s 100% beef.”
As the main concern is food safety why not lead with pictures of non-ammonia treated beef after five days and compare with the lovingly treated ammonia sample? Do a version of a Pepsi / Coke blind test and ask customers which food is the healthier option. A PR campaign needs to start creating comfort around ammonia treated food and only then will the power of the pink slime label fade. Ultimately this is a PR game about convincing consumers about the perils of eating aging untreated meat. This will be a tough one. Bon appétit.