never thought of herself as an activist, but after posting a petition on
change.org calling on the USDA to cease purchasing ammonia-treated beef for its
school lunch program, Siegel--and thousands of online activists--have been front and
center in a political battle pitting beef manufacturers against soccer moms,
celebrity chefs, and The White House.
The furor began
a year earlier when Jamie Oliver highlighted the 'pink slime' beef on an
episode of his Food Revolution
program, but the issue did not gather real traction until Siegel’s blog on March 10th. Soon afterward, the chatter on the web spiked throughout government
agencies according to OhMyGov analytics.
Within weeks of
the Food Revolution broadcast going viral, sales of lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) plunged. In response, Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) took out full-page ads in several markets
around the country--including Waterloo, Iowa, where one of its plants is
located--to explain its side of the story.
product is 100 percent beef, and that's what consumers need to
understand," Craig Letch, director of food safety and quality assurance at
BPI, said in an interview with the Waterloo
Courier March 27. "We're not an additive, but a lean beef source...The
best we can do is get the truth out."
Unfortunately, BPI's use of traditional media may have not worked. This week, the Chicago Tribune
reported that Beef Products, Inc. announced the temporary shutdown of four of
its plants in Amarillo, Texas, Garden City, Kan. and two other
locations, laying off 220 workers at one facility, and calling into question
the security of several more.
It's not just
BPI that's in the crossfire.
Cargill and Tyson Foods have also been on activists' radars. Yet BPI stands out, not just for its
association with Kroger, McDonald's and other companies, which bought its
product, but also for its role in pioneering ammonia-treated beef.
For eight years,
the USDA gave BPI its blessing, allowing LFTB to be served in school cafeterias
and short order joints throughout the nation. But it was only the beginning of
a years-long process that would see Siegel--and countless other online
activists-- take to social media to push for tighter regulations around LFTB.
In an age where
anyone with a laptop and a burning desire for change can turn the establishment
on its heels; it's clear the old ways of doing things aren't going to cut it.
is the reality of today," USDA spokesman Mike Jarvis said. "With more
people paying attention to what's in their food and especially what's being
served in their schools."
insists ammonia treated beef is safe--even as schools across the country back
away from it.
it from the beginning. We think
it's a safe product, but people have preferences and some schools didn't want