Pink Slime Fight Reveals Larger Agricultural Fissures

Photo By: AP/Beef Products Inc.

The recent debate over pink slime, the controversial beef filler, has revealed deeper conflicts between farm advocates on the one hand, and food safety advocates and animal rights organizations on the other.

Pink slime is a controversial beef filler that has been a part of American meat production for several years. Initially approved for human consumption in 2001, recent news stories last March brought significant public attention to the product for the first time, leading many consumers to protest stores carrying products containing pink slime and leading grocery stores across the country to drop products that use the filler.

The fight over pink slime is only the latest battle between agricultural producers and food activists. Earlier this month, food and animal rights activists criticized McDonald’s shareholders for using eggs produced by cage-raised chickens. The McDonald’s protest is part of a longstanding fight between animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States and state governments over cage size and the conditions in poultry farms.

The increasing intensity of these fights has been exacerbated by two factors. Politically, these fights are heating up as advocates on both sides court politicians fighting for reelection. With the farm bill being debated and with the 2012 election only months away, politicians hoping to shore up public support have found agricultural issues fertile ground.

In addition, these fights represent the growing influence of social media sites in mobilizing public support. The pink slime controversy, initially sparked by ABC News reports, was fought largely through sites like Facebook and Twitter, which helped spread awareness and threats of boycotts.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer