The recent fervor over the inclusion of so-called ‘pink slime’ in school lunches reminded me very much of the old Steve McQueen thriller, “The Blob.” Only instead of the goo eating children, the children have been eating the goo.
I’m not here to debate the merits of including this stuff in kids lunches, but rather the fact that social media has once again proven to be a powerful weapon in the war for public service. Although the meat byproduct had been included in school lunches and other products for almost a decade, nobody said or did much about it until word started spreading across the Social Web. The power of this message was no doubt increased by the inclusion of photos of the decidedly icky-looking stuff with every post, and the ominous warning that the ammonia hydroxide gas used to sterilize the meat was unsafe for human consumption.
These things and the multitude of voices joined in the chorus against its use in school lunches has brought the United States Department of Agriculture to release a statement today that beginning this fall schools will be able to opt-out of the use of ‘pink slime’ and substitute a less lean version of meat.
I predict that every school district in the nation, except perhaps those located in South Dakota where Beef Products Inc. makes the stuff, will indeed opt-out of using the stuff. Those that do not, or do not commit themselves to this cause sooner rather than later, will face a deluge of local social media attacks as a result of their delay.
The power of social media simply cannot be overstated. The fact this message went viral is a result of the passion of those committed to its removal. They shared the message as a matter of public conscience, or so they thought, telling everyone they knew or thought would also be concerned. (And really, who isn’t concerned about the health of their children/grandchildren/nieces/nephews/cousins/step-children/friend’s children?)
This capitulation by the USDA is just another sign of what can be accomplished with the right social media message. There is no guarantee your next message will go viral, but at least you can be certain that the opportunity is there if your message is right.
School districts soon will be able to opt out of a common ammonia-treated ground beef filler critics have dubbed “pink slime.”
Amid a growing social media storm over so-called “lean finely textured beef,” the Agriculture Department announced Thursday that, starting next fall, schools involved in the national school lunch program will have the option of avoiding the product.
Under the change, schools will be able to choose between 95 percent lean beef patties made with the product or less lean bulk ground beef without it. The change won’t kick in immediately because of existing contracts, according to a USDA official with knowledge of the decision.