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Karl Guenther Column: Where's the beef?


The last I heard, there was a federal lawsuit going on, all about a federal lawsuit. Yeah, that’s just a sample of how complicated things can get.  This one happens to deal with setting the American dinner table.  ABC News has asked a South Dakota federal court to dismiss claims it defamed Beef Products Inc., through those reports about lean, finely-textured beef - - (they’d have been all right, probably, if they’d just gone on from there) and specifically labeling it “pink slime.”  BPI initiated the lawsuit in September. 

ABC News of course is defending its use of the term, contending it’s just the kind of things news organizations do, using loose, figurative, hyperbolic language - - - they don’t say why, but are pointing out courts have from time to time recognized that such linguistic athleticism is protected by the First Amendment (of the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech.)  BPI contends the pointless designation of lean, finely textured beef as “pink slime” imparted an extremely negative perception in consumer minds, thereby costing the industry 400-million dollars in lost profit.  We’ll see where this goes, but probably not anytime soon!

 I seriously doubt that any national/international flurry of negatives such as that just described had anything to do with the decision recently at Michigan State University to deliver itself of its prize purebred Hereford beef herd.  In fact, I expect the Michigan beef industry might have accepted that rationale more quickly than the one put forth.  It will surely be a discussion topic at the Michigan Farm Bureau annual session which will again take up the “new direction” on the Spartan campus, which many have described as abandoning, or at least downgrading the original mission of the Pioneer Land Grant College, in favor of its pursuit as a “research institution”, not unlike it’s cousin in Ann Arbor.  Anyway, that’s what I’m getting from various reading and listening resources.  “Loss of focus” is how Farm Bureau is already describing the changes.

CATTLEFAX, a beef industry publication contends beef herd expansion in the U.S. is on the way - - but it may be a year, or even two years away.  I guess, given history since the days following the Civil War, that’s as safe a guess as any.  Randy Blach of that publication says all this is somewhat dependent on rain!

Texas and Oklahoma are good examples of beef-producing areas where drought is still a major problem, recording warmer and drier weather in October on into November.

Here in the Midwest, I expect my own little acreage is a pretty good example of “more of the same”, as I reflect on the extra weeks of warmer than normal, drier than normal weather that gave me all that extra time for leaf pickup and fall landscaping.

Any predictions I might have about anything weather-dependent, I think, will be at least two years out!