Hy-Vee Buckles Under the Pressure

There may be a smile in every aisle, but there is apparently little spine.

Earlier in the week I lauded Hy-Vee for making the decision to remove ground beef tainted with pink slime…er, lean finely textured beef.  Now it appears like Hy-Vee is buckling to political pressure and will again have the product in its meat cases alongside non-tainted ground beef.  Lame.

The current governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, and the former governor of Iowa, current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, were showering the love on pink slime this week.  Vilsack was particularly vehement in his assertion that if pink slime were not safe than the USDA, which is under his purview, would not approve the product for sale or consumption.

Never mind that this controversy was less about the actual safety of the product and more about the disgusting manner in which it is produced.  Why should we believe that the USDA is such a vigilant protector of our food safety and not just a shill for the very companies it is meant to regulate?  Is this the same Secretary Vilsack who announced the closure of over 250 USDA offices and a “streamlining” of agency practices in January of 2012?  Is this the same USDA that recalled beef patties for a possible E. Coli contamination in March? 

Our regulation and enforcement regime relative to food in the United States is a mess, so the government telling me that something is safe to eat is no panacea.  Where was the government in enforcement of rules for egg producers or peanut butter manufacturers or any of the other food recalls we have seen over the past decade?  Late to the game and a dollar short in punishment or rectification of the problem.

What this shower of love is really about is pressure being exerted by major corporations on political leaders.  Why am I so sure?  Where does BPI have a facility that makes pink slime?  Waterloo, Iowa.  Just sayin…

However, what the controversy over pink slime has shown to people is that their opinion does matter and that righteous indignation can affect change.  The battle is not over and the opponents are merely girding their loins for the field of battle, but change can happen in our lifetimes.  Even if it is just one pound of ground beef at a time.

I am just waiting for Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum to be holding up a package of ground beef declaring,  “Obama can have my pink slime when he pries it from my cold dead hands!”  Branstad and Vilsack just do not pander quite like presidential candidates.


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