Sunday, April 1, 2012

The battle over "pink slime"

It's been interesting to keep an eye on developments regarding so-called "pink slime"--also known as (as Wikipedia explains) boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT) or lean finely textured beef (LFTB)--over the last week. 

First, Hy-Vee decided not to carry the product anymore. After customer complaints, Hy-Vee reversed course, promising to offer products both with and without the additive. Meanwhile, a coalition of governors--including our own Terry Branstad--have gotten behind the product. They have good reason to: jobs in the food industry are being lost as a result of the "pink slime" controversy, and that's troubling.

This is potentially a good lesson in the power of words to frame debates. When I first heard about "pink slime," I assumed it must be bad. With a name like that, how could it be good? But there's an argument on the other side that is summed up succinctly in the Des Moines Register article linked to above: "Dude, it's beef."

Reminds me of a similar (though reverse) lesson learned by folks who wanted to sell the Chinese gooseberry in an international market. The name that sticks to something often determines how it is received by the public.

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