The Beef Industry and Social Networking

A beautifully written Los Angeles Times story from Tiffany Hsu and Ricardo Lopez. The piece fades about two-thirds through with some annoying digressions but ends strong. I love this quote from beef historian Maureen Ogle, about how the beef industry dealt with the pink slime media debacle:

They did exactly what they always do, which is really not much of anything. Frankly, they’re going to get killed from now on because of social media. It can do more damage in a day than old media used to be able to do in a month.

It’s not social media that does the damage—it’s ordinary animal advocates, like you and me, using social media as a tool to inflict damage on the industry. We’re the people who recognize stories that would otherwise be neglected, and make them blow up on Facebook and Twitter. And once that happens, we see follow-up coverage from the likes of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jane Velez-Mitchell, and so forth—and we promote that stuff too.

There are two reasons that social media is a problem for the meat industry. First is that we win the numbers game: there are countless more animal advocates than there are people who are passionate about defending animal agribusiness. And second, the meat industry engages in all sorts of practices that an informed public would condemn—and one by one, these practices are coming to light.

Those big heavy American V8 cars were perfect for the late 1960s, back when gas was 35 cents a gallon, but demand for that sort of car is now dead. Likewise, factory farming could thrive at a time when the only way ordinary people could find out about industry misdeeds was through the major media—which had no interest in taking the subject seriously. But now, thanks to animal advocates using social media to ignite breaking news, those days are over.

From here on in, expect monthly PR disasters for the meat industry until it fundamentally restructures into a far smaller industry that takes the environment, food safety, and animal welfare seriously. (Thanks, Paul.) Link.


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