More Than Just Mentions: Understanding the Online Reaction to “Pink Slime"

When ABC News released a story focused on the cheap meat additive, “Pink Slime” (officially known as lean finely textured beef), it launched a public crusade to rid the nation’s dinner plates of the ingredient. Along the way, the public began to question “Pink Slime’s” role in a number of industries and major brands. What topics dominated the conversation, and who took the most blame?

At 31%, the bulk of the blame and concern has been directed at school lunch programs. The second largest target has been grocery stores, with 19% of the conversation questioning whether their chosen supermarket sells meat with Pink Slime and an additional 9% announcing their plans to switch to a local butcher.

Conversation about Fast Food restaurants accounts for 19% of the conversation. Although Wendy’s-specific discussion accounts for 11% of that discussion, the brand’s early action framed the chatter around them in a favorable light. The remaining 8% of commentary on the Fast Food Industry and “Pink Slime” isn’t so positive:

Apart from Wendy’s promotional guarantees of “no slime,” only 6% of the conversation focused on companies that did not use the filler in their meats. Despite claims of innocence from Costco, Publix, and Whole Foods, consumers have been skeptical:

This isn’t the first time in the last year consumers have had to fear their food. In Europe last summer a deadly strain of E. Coli made its way into vegetable shipments and provoked panic over an outbreak. Part of the alarm was caused by the German government, when they wrongly identified Spanish cucumbers as the source of the bacterial strand. This mis-informed accusation cost Spanish farmers and grocery stores over a half billion Euro loss, forcing them to dump the entire product to hedge safety concerns.

Unlike the Pink Slime controversy, the 2011 E. Coli outbreak was rather kind on specific brands and tended to focus on the food industry as a whole: 14% discussed their concerns over vegetable consumption; 12% of the conversation expressed concern for the farmers and vegetables sales affected by the scare; and 22% mused on the source of the outbreak.
How do you think the Pink Slime discussion will evolve? Tweet at @crimsonhexagon and let us know what you think.
As always, we’ll continue analyzing the space for interesting trends. In the meantime, feel free to contact us at with questions or to learn how your market, brand or product could benefit from leveraging the Crimson Hexagon ForSight™ platform for social media monitoring and analysis. Want to see the Crimson Hexagon platform in action? Request a Live Online Demo.
Andrew Brearton and Miles Branman also contributed to this post

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