Getting to the meat of the matter

Like most working women, my day starts early when the house is still quiet, giving me a few minutes to think through the numerous activities that will fill my day, plan for things I need to do and catch up on the news. I typically save the news for the last part of my morning ritual – not because it’s my favorite (it’s not), but because what I see and read, or the lack of it, often frustrates me.

Nearly a year ago I wanted so badly to temporarily eliminate the morning news cycle from my routine for a few days because of the lead topic.  “Pink Slime” was leading the day’s top stories everywhere.  At first I didn’t recognize the catchy name but the description was certainly familiar – the mainstream news media were describing lean finely textured beef.

With each new news cycle, the sound bytes just got bigger and slimier. My frustration set in. Where did some of these so-called “experts” come from? Why did anyone with a sense of logic and science believe them?  Where was the meat industry?

Yes, at first this was seen as BPI’s issue, but others had skin in this game too. When it mattered most, the meat industry was playing possum – the same as acting like nothing was amiss and waiting for it to blow over.  That worked out well, didn’t it?

  • There was no nipping it in the bud.
  • There was no proactive plan on the shelf to be mobilized if/when there was consumer outcry.
  • There was no standing up and being heard – until the airwaves were far past saturated with inaccuracies and wrong messages.

By the time meat industry experts showed up to the party, it was well after the band had quit playing.

And yet, the chatter mounted.

I took my son to soccer practice and another mom asked me about it. My neighbor who had moved away called me to ask about it. A friend of a friend who I barely knew stopped me while grocery shopping to ask me about it.

Awareness was high; concern was high and those whom consumers trusted most were sending mixed signals. Shop at Supermarket X and the ground beef went missing… shop at Supermarket Y and it was all still there. This left our consumers wondering:  Is it unsafe? Who is right? What do “they” know that they are not saying?  The distrust grew among consumers..

What really struck me as interesting was what I learned the next time I talked to the other soccer mom, my neighbor and the friend of a friend.  They each told me they hadn’t changed what they were buying. Did others do, well … nothing, too?

This wasn’t just my finding, others were arriving at this same question. It needed an answer and when we looked around we didn’t find one.  So we decided to find out for ourselves.

But doing a study on just LFTB didn’t make sense when there are other issues also causing friction between consumers and meat industry. We decided to explore what we believe are the big three: LFTB, gestation stalls and antibiotics and growth hormones. Why lump those last two together? Because that is the way consumer talks about them.

The results have led to many interesting conservations among our team members. Some of the results are common sense, some create ah-ha moments and some are brain teasers. Nothing we learned will give us the ability to go back and change the damage done by the mainstream media’s pink slime debauchery, but it can help us as we move forward. It can help us as an industry do a better job in the future, if we take the findings to heart and apply what we have learned.

We named this study “Meat Matters” because the research gets to the heart of what matters to consumers. So what should you do with it?

– Educate yourself on what consumers know about these issues and how or if they have changed their behaviors because of them.

Study how consumers responded to factual statements.

Apply these learnings to be proactive in building your issues management plans.

If you choose not to, you may find yourself wanting to eliminate the news from your morning ritual too.

 Learn more about Meat Matters here.

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