Avila has been in Elk Point, South Dakota for the entire week and a half of the trial, but his taped deposition was played instead of him taking the witness stand. BPI’s attorney Dan Webb questioned Avila over how thoroughly he vetted the credibility of his sources used in his news reports that alleged BPI’s lean finely textured beef was not safe and was actually “pink slime’ and not beef.
Avila said he didn’t know Gerald Zirnstein, a former U.S.D.A. scientist used as a source was a crusader against LFTB. He was asked if that would have made a difference in his report. “I don’t think that has any indication of bias whatsoever. He was a U.S.D.A. microbiologist intimately involved in the product,” Avila replied. Zirnstein is credited with coining the term “pink slime.”
Avila was also questioned about his use of that term. “I think I used the term pink slime more often than I did LFTB,” Avila said. “Because as you will see, lean finely textured beef does not exactly roll off the tongue.”
Webb asked Avila several times if he thought using “pink slime” to describe a food product was derogatory. Avila hedged and referred back to Zirnstein. “I would say that it was coined by Gerald Zirnstein. That he did not mean to use it as a compliment. That it was in fact meant to be a critical comment, yes,” Avila said.
BPI says in its lawsuit that the reports using the term pink slim led the company to lose 75 percent of its business, forcing them to close three plants that made LFTB. One of the closed plants was in Waterloo.
The trial continues today in Union County District Court.
(Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)