Getting Involved In Campus Food Policy

Food Policy

…definitely not something I consider in my daily vocabulary, but a conversation we should all be a part of. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I should consider myself a ‘foodie’ (term used loosely). I spend every day concerned about my food. I think about where it comes, learning more about how to produce it, and where my next meal will come from. When I was a kid, most of our meat came from our pastures or the neighbors’, and we often had fresh vegetables from the garden. I love to cook, try new recipes, use raw ingredients; however, anyone can accuse me of loving my beef. And when a news story comes out about how our food is produced, it definitely catches my attention. I am certain there’s more out there with those same concerns.

Flyer that caught my attention

Last week I attended a campus Food Policy Council meeting. This isn’t exactly a meeting I would have considered on my own, but the advertising flyer caught my attention. Hung on the door of a building on Ag campus was an orange flyer that simply stated, “Don’t let UT feed you pink slime. Food Policy Council meeting…” How would I respond?

Pink slime caught my eye as soon as the stories started flying on social media. I watched the ABC news report, and read many responses from the beef community. I even shared my thoughts on the topic, but there is no way I will profess myself to be a meat scientist. So I utilized my resources, contacted a few colleagues and professionals within the meat science community, and became more familiar with this lean beef product, which someone decided to label as ‘pink slime.’ I need to learn more, and I wanted to have an answer when/if someone asked me about the topic.

The Food Policy meeting was definitely a good experience. Many students appeared to be from urban backgrounds, from areas on campus like Arts, Science, and Business. Well… let me put it this way. My invited friend and I were the only ones wearing Wranglers in the crowd 🙂 But remember, we all have an interest in food, and I felt like I needed to be there.

Raising cattle is my passion. Cattle produce beef on our plates. Why not share my passion?

We talked about many food issues, the concern of bringing more local, organic food to campus, and issues to be addressed later in the semester. When the time came for open floor, I introduced myself, explained I was a ranch kid, and wanted to address the issue of pink slime. I knew if someone else had attended the meeting after seeing the flyer, they may have had the same concerns and first impressions as myself and those expressed by the media.

I shared my thoughts on pink slime – in my best effort at proposing a conversation, explained the process to the best of my ability, and offered up my experience to answer any questions about food. The faces were friendly in the crowd by the time I finished and hopefully I answered a few questions about this beef product. After the meeting, I answered questions from about half the group and look forward to the next meeting.

Why IS this food conversation important?

This Food Policy Council isn’t unique to my college campus, rather it’s a reflection of society as a whole. Communities who have questions about how food is raised and how it ends up on our grocery shelves surround us. Unfortunately, those who are raised in urban areas may not have the opportunity to experience first-hand food production, and must rely on mainstream media, or what they are told from others to learn about food sources. This is where the Agriculture community steps in.

This campus Food Policy Council is a good thing – even a great thing! We need everyone to be concerned about food sources and learn more about them. But the Agriculture community must be involved in the conversation. Like I mentioned earlier, people who live food production day in and out have first-hand knowledge of how things work and not everyone is privileged to those experiences. Food Policy cannot be dictated solely by those who do not have a hand in production. Non-ag consumers need farmers. Farmers need non-ag consumers. We have to work together in this. If not, it’s just another rally cry for attention that will do little more than burn money on campaigns.

It’s time Agriculture starts joining the conversation where it’s already taking place

It would be a shame for the Agriculture college not to become involved in this Council that can have a huge impact on how the campus community eats. Not because I want to dictate what comes out of the meeting, but because someone should be there to answer questions from hands-on experiences, address misinformation, and learn what we can do to better satisfy the desires of non-ag consumers.

Conversations are a two-way street. It’s time to step up and become a part. Stop waiting for the conversation to come your way. Go be a part of the conversation.

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Great Job Ryan! Thanks for sharing your experience. You know, I have also found that people are really just concerned about their food. They don’t know the answers and they want them, We need to be there to tell them what we know. Great job!

  2. Great point Ryan! If the conversation is about food, everyone has an interest in it. Its up to us to be sure our viewpoints are represented whatever the viewpoint is. I guess this means you’ll be going back? 😉

  3. I find it very difficult to understand the conversation all over the media about so called “pink slime”. The only thing I can think that is causing it is an intensive campaign by someone or some group, to discredit meat, beef especially. If it wasn’t so important, it would be funny. That people don’t know any better than to call lean, red meat trimmings “pink slime” is almost beyond comprehension. I’d like to know the true story of how, and from whom, the whole thing got started. And yes, I have been a part of the conversation, Ryan, and living where I do, and with my background as a beef producer for more than half a century, I think I know something of what I speak. It’s just so difficult to get through to those not involved in our industry when these claims are being made in the mainstream media by those that claim to know whereof they speak. Thanks for the opportunity to vent!

  4. Thanks, Ryan for this article. I was glad when you offered information from your blog on pink slime from those in the industry to those of us who were wondering what the heck was going on. Now, you have taken it a step further to be a part of the conversation in educating people about what we eat. Thank you for that — and for including us in your conversation. I’ll be looking forward to your notes after your next meeting with the Food Policy Council. Keep up the good work for us food/farm dummies.

  5. Well said! The college I attended had several groups on campus that had events like the one you described – and aggies were not well represented. Luckily some of us in the Ag dept. made sure we were involved. We even had “local” food dinners – where we would use products produced at the University Farm or within the community – it helped encourage discussion on how their food is produced. It was a small step, but a step in the right direction!

  6. You are 100% correct those producing the food should be the people involved in the conversation about the food. Way to have the guts and information to share with the group. I think there are lot of consumers who really Love hearing from those on the “inside”. 2 thumbs up!!! if I had more than 2 thumbs I would hold them up to!!! LOL

  7. Ryan, good for you to take it upon yourself to attend this meeting. I have been following this topic for sometime on social media threads and have even lost some “friends” on facebook because of it. Sometimes when I try to calmly explain what MY opinion is I am usually able to get my point across, but sometimes the stubborn ones always dominate the conversation. When I first ran accross the “Pink Slime” topic it was actually a picture of a pink substance being extruded from a grinder. The picture was of mechanically separated chicken being ground up then there was an explanation of how the bones are pressed through a sieve. This mixture is what has been used in hot dogs and sausage for decades. So why all the stink all of a sudden? The article had to mention that the meat was exposed to an ammonia gas to control bacteria. Well the gas part got left off in following postings then the word sprayed, referring to the ammonia, came into the discussion. Now somehow the “Pink Slime” moniker has been transported to the lean red meat trimmings, My wife used to be a butcher and they saved trimmings all the time to grind into the leaner meat to make the various percentages of fat hamburger 80/20 etc. They also by tubes of filler, as the butcher shop could not produce enough trimmings to keep up with the demand for hamburger. So in my opinion there is an attack going on in the food industry, who is orchestrating it is another story.

    1. Thanks Eddie for your comment. Yes it is difficult to understand why there is a sudden stink about this product, and the use of the chicken photos confuses me as well. It’s difficult to see how misinformation can spread quickly, and has now resulted in hundreds of families losing their jobs. This indeed is one of the safest beef products on the market today, but because a media company was looking for a sensational story, we now have this situation on our hands.

  8. Thank you Ryan. I enjoyed reading your article. Please feel free to read a page that myself, my family and my community highly support. There is a lot of “anti pink slime” campaigning going on lately. Which is just mislead people trying to protect themselves from what they have been told to fear. Please visit educate yourself and others. Thank you again.

Leave a Reply