Harrington's Sort & Cull
John Harrington DTN Livestock Analyst

Friday 08/24/12

Procurement Correctness

Sometime in the 1980's, society was first fitted with the muzzle of "political correctness," that artificial standard of speech and behavior designed to dress-up all things thought to be unforgivably insensitive.

Unfortunately, there are signs that PC has grown into a more comprehensive harness, one that dictates set commercial responses to broadly defined flash points of consumer concerns. Forget about facts and details. Forget about truth and larger consequences.

Better to respond with shotgun propriety than pause even a minute with the messiness of deliberation and rationality.

"Procuring correctness" is clearly the new mantra of the food industry in this country. The latest example of this institutionalized knee-jerking surfaced this week when an animal right's group released the latest reincarnation of "Candid Camera."

When the undercover video shot at a slaughterhouse operated by Central Valley Meat Co. showed cows that appeared to be sick or lame being beaten, kicked, shot and shocked in an attempt to get them to walk to slaughter, McDonald's cancelled its ties with the beef supplier faster than you could say "federal inspection."

McDonald's certainly weren't the only ones to pull the plug before the bath water was declared dirty. Costco, regional fast-food chain In-N-Out Burger, and even the USDA beat a frantic path toward disassociation with Central Valley.

Of course, federal meat inspectors almost immediately went on record that none of the abused animals made it into the food chain. But that was never the point.

Meat buyers at McDonald's and Costco and USDA made their decisions based not on safety facts, but on perceived perceptions.

Please understand, I certainly don't condone any cruel and abusive treatment of livestock. It sounds like employee training and basic standards of quality control were seriously wanting. Wrong is wrong and must always be corrected.

Yet the reaction of McDonald's, et al, still strikes me as curious and troublesome.

Once upon a time, one could succeed in the food industry by simply focusing on just three factors: quality, price, and service. While that trinity remains essential, modern vendors now believe that their business models must be favorably perceived from a variety of political angles like animal rights and environmentalism.

The pink slime circus suffered last March was a bigger and sadder version of this same problem. Once the sensational news stories were exploited and the Youtube videos went viral, grocery chain after grocery chain purged it from the meat case as if it was the bubonic plague wrapped in sausage casing.

"Pink slime" was never about safety, value, or price. It was only about one thing: procurement correctness.

Welcome to the future.



Posted at 3:02PM CDT 08/24/12 by John Harrington
Comments (3)
OK, let's throw PC out the window and call a spade a dairy cow. Nearly all of the market killing "disclosures" over the past 10 years have not involved producers who make their living producing beef. Whether they are the BSE "cow that stole Christmas" in 2003 or the more recent videos of the horrible practices used on downer cows at slaughter plants, they have mostly come from cull dairy cows. Perhaps some increased pressure on that segment of the industry would help keep the real beef industry from suffering at the hands of those for whom beef is a by-product.
Posted by CURTIS RUSSELL at 9:35PM CDT 08/28/12
Oh man, not an us against them again!
Posted by Dave Brutscher at 9:20PM CDT 09/27/12
No, it's not us vs them, just facts.
Posted by CURTIS RUSSELL at 10:22PM CDT 10/02/12
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