#BeefisBeef: Forum offers platform for debate about lean finely textured beef


Photo: Huiling Wu/Iowa State Daily

Iowa Rep. Steve King, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Gov. Terry Branstad laugh during “The Truth: Lean Finely Textured Beef,” a forum hosted by the ISU Block and Bridle Club on Tuesday, April 10, at the Farm Bureau Pavilion. They all wore shirts indicating they are supporting Iowa agriculture. 

Randi Reeder

Both sides of the lean finely textured beef debate were heard Tuesday at “The Truth: Lean Finely Textured Beef” forum.

Before the forum began, protesters holding up signs reading “Fair Food Not Fake Food,” “AG GAG,” “Occupy the Food Supply” and “Cronyism Off Campus” came and stood outside of Kildee as the ISU Block and Bridle Club Grilling Team members prepared 400 burgers for the event.

David Murphy, the founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now who is from Clear Lake, opened up an outdoor space for protestors such as George Naylor, a corn and soybean farmer from Churdan, Iowa, and the president of the National Family Farm Coalition, saying that the “1 percent in control of the industry is out of control.”

The event was a fight against the pink slime smear campaign, which was voiced by state leaders of Iowa and beef industry representatives such as Gov. Terry Branstad, Janet Riley of the American Meat Institute and Nancy Degner of the Iowa Beef Industry Council.

Others who spoke were Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Jim Dickson, professor of animal science.

Brady McNeil, senior in animal science and president of the Block and Bridle Club, which sponsored the event along with the department of agriculture, opened the forum.

Branstad, sporting a bright red T-shirt with the slogan “Dude, it’s Beef” over his dress shirt, was the first to speak.

Branstad thanked the university for hosting the forum and Board of Regents members Craig Long and Bruce Rassetter for being there.

Branstad stressed the topics of keeping jobs in Iowa and asked the audience to support the industry, which “needs your help to get the word out” against the smear on a “great product.” Reynolds and King made similar remarks, with King saying that the beef industry makes a “tasty” product that is “award winning.”

As each of the political members concluded, each donned a cardinal red and gold T-shirt that read “I Support Iowa Agriculture” with the Twitter hashtag “#Beefisbeef” on the back. As the forum progressed, 150 of these T-shirts were thrown into the crowd.

The main purpose of the event, which was to inform the public about the scientific process that produces lean finely textured beef, was presented by  Dickson, who said he “has been working with BPI with [lean finely textured beef] for nearly 10 years.”

Degner and Riley stressed the use of social media to get the word out about lean finely textured beef being a healthy product that is “in fact lean beef,” as Dickson said.

Degner told the 300-plus audience members to “be rational, to not preach,” but “have a conversation” when trying to tell the facts about lean finely textured beef.

To prove her point, she showed two photos. One was of cattle in a pasture and one photo was of beef on a dinner plate to help explain how we “have to get the true story out about how we get beef to the table.”

After, the floor opened for audience members to ask questions. Some attendees asked why the lean finely textured beef was not labeled for consumers, what type of ammonia was used in the product and how Iowa and agriculture officials planned to be proactive in the future instead of reactive.