Living in mean times

by Bryan Salvage
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In recent years, US meat and poultry companies — and sometimes industry, in general — have increasingly come under attack by special interest groups that work overtime to rally consumers to support their opposition to a product or even an opinion of a company official that is the opposite of theirs.

Take lean finely textured beef (LFTB), for example. Although a wholesome, perfectly safe ingredient for ground beef that received proper government approvals years ago and an ingredient that had been safely used for years, LFTB was unjustly crucified by the largely ignorant general press, labeled as “pink slime” and tagged as unwholesome meat, among other things (See “Assassinating effective technology, March 26, 2012, MEATPOULTRY.com). As a result, top suppliers of LFTB lost major retail and foodservice customers that were receiving ground beef containing LFTB, plants closed and many jobs were lost.

Most recently, family owned and operated Chick-fil-A, which operates 1,615 stores in 39 states with 2011 sales of $4.1 billion, came under attack by same-sex marriage advocates after company CEO Dan Cathy, an outspoken and devout Christian, whose stores are closed on Sunday, expressed his support of traditional marriage during an interview. As a result, the same-sex marriage movement condemned Cathy’s right to express his religious views. As a result, protests and boycott campaigns have ensued as many opponents to Cathy’s views are using this difference in opinions in attempts to negatively impact his business.

Gone are the days when if you differed in opinion with a company’s personal or business philosophies, you would simply not spend money on their products or services. Today, many of those who don’t agree with such opinions would prefer to put those with differing points of views out of business.

But instead of rolling over and playing dead, thousands of people visited Chick-fil-A locations across the country on Aug. 1 dubbed “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day”, buying products and showing support for the company and its CEO. And this movement was not initiated by the company. For many locations, sales records were set while many others reported selling out of food. Same-sex marriage advocates were stunned at this outpouring of support and then quickly announced they would stage “kiss-ins” at Chick-fil-A stores throughout the US on Aug. 3 to continue their protest — but the kiss-in protest fizzled out.

Cathy’s beliefs have long been publicly known. In a recent statement, the company relayed from the day Truett Cathy started Chick-fil-A decades ago, he began applying Bible-based principles to managing his business.

According to the company, “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

Despite this proclamation, same-sex marriage advocates continue to charge Cathy and Chick-fil-A are bigoted. You be the judge.

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