One year ago on Round and Square—Theory Corner
|[a] Textured RF|
Let's get started, though. We'll pretend, for narrative purposes, that this all happens at the shop of your local butcher, just down the street—positioned between the bakery and the candlestick maker's shop. The dry goods store is across the street. This 1950s feel isn't meant to cover up the mega-meat business of it all (we'll get to that soon enough). It is just a way of thinking about a very peculiar cultural process.
|[b] Monsieur Le Bouef RF|
If it's a small shop, s/he wraps them up in white paper and marks the price with a thick grease pen. It is heading to the butcher's window or your grocer's freezer. Morning traffic is just beginning to grow, and retail beef sales are ready to rumble. Done—a messy but necessary job in a society of carnivores, right?
|[c] Middles RF|
|[d] Chuck RF|
That's the process, and the USDA says it's safe. In the meantime, through a combination of whistleblowing, errant e-mail messages, and public outcry, the term "pink slime" has caught on. It has had notable effect on shared culture, and breaking bread together may never be the same again.
Retailers are racing for the exits, hoping to escape the quickslime that this has become for anyone who wants to sell any fine textures of beef. School lunch programs (and the bureaucracies that run them) don't know what to do with the many thousands of pounds of ammonium hydroxide treated beef in their freezers. The New York Times has given us a glimpse into the world of school lunch culture. Take a look.
|[e] Lean RF|
What fascinates me about this whole topic is the way that words influence culture. We could push this as far as saying "words are culture," but I'll pull it back from that brink for now. Let's not kid ourselves, though. A big part of the "PR" problem for the beef industry is, well, the wording. While "pink" has a number of nice connotations in our cultural milieu (roses, cherry blossoms, and even light rosé), slime doesn't have much of an upside. In fact, there is only one side, and it is not particularly appetizing.
|[f] Emotion RF|
Well, yes. That is my whole point. Cultural and economic change (because the economy is cultural—a point that economists would do well to consider more carefully than they often do) happens. Stuff happens. That's culture...and change. The role of words in all of this is fascinating for me. Language and culture are mixing their ammonium hydroxide gas-magic, and it is changing bottom lines everywhere. Let's think about that, and the impact that a phrase (and its accompanying imagery—never forget that) has had on the beef industry's bottom line. Crying fowl won't work in the Burger Court of American consumption. We would do best to analyze, reflect, and deliberate.
We'll let Jon Stewart have the last word, but I have plenty of theoretical questions for a future post. Stay (at)tuned.