Beef industry still trying to cope with bizarre agenda of some

The annual cow- calf clinic at Milano Livestock Exchange is an indicator the calendar has just changed and a new year has arrived.

It’s always reassuring. The men and women who gather there—Texan to the core and representative of generations of good, hard work— are those “salt of the earth” types that you figure will be around as long as Texas is.

There are always challenges. If you’re a farmer or rancher you live with them and just get used to it. But there are some challenges that come completely out of left field.

Dr. Davey Griffin of Texas A&M was there to show a video tour on meat packing facilities in Texas. Who would want to watch that? Just a lot of good people whose livelihoods depends upon keeping those facilities going.

It’s been a bizarre couple of years for the beef industry. Dr. Griffin asked anyone who had heard of “pink slime” to raise their hands and virtually everyone did.

“Pink slime” of course was the phrase someone with more wit than conscience hung on a product called “lean, finely-textured beef” a couple of years ago. Sort of a hamburger equivalent of a hot dog, if you know what we mean.

The knock on “pink slime,” if you listened to its critics, was that the product was either unsafe or just plain icky. Of course if that bald-headed guy on cable TV had eaten some on his “Bizarre Foods” show, where he regularly consumes things like eyeballs, and you criticized it, you’d almost certainly be labeled intolerant of other cultures.

Ranchers, of course, don’t get to qualify as a culture. So, some packing plants actually closed. People lost money and some of them were in the Milano Livestock Auction audience on Friday.

Dr. Griffin’s purpose in bringing the video was to show that packers have nothing to hide, that all beef products coming out of them are safe and that packing plants are regulated and as humane as such an industry can ever be.

But it’s hard not to think of Mark Twain’s observation, “nothing is easier to kill than the truth; but a lie well-told is immortal.”

Let’s hope he was wrong on this one.—M.B.

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2014-01-09 digital edition

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