Opening statements were given Monday in the defamation lawsuit filed by Beef Products Incorporated against ABC Broadcasting and reporter Jim Avila for news reports that referred to BPI’s lean, finely textured beef as “pink slime.”
BPI attorney Dan Webb told the jury that those reports led to BPI losing 75 percent of its business, forcing the company to close three plants. One of the closed plants was in Waterloo.
Webb says the evidence will show ABC’s reports were false and based on misinformation and that the company’s product is safe and nutritious.
“They published that LFTB was pink slime. They published that LFTB would fill you up, but it was not going to do you any good. They stated LFTB was a filler in ground beef. They published that it was more like gelatin than beef. They stated that LFTB’s protein comes mostly from connective tissue, and they published that LFTB was made from waste trimmings,” Webb says.
ABC’s attorney, Dane Butswinkus, countered that the production of BPI’s beef product was shrouded in secrecy, that the U.S.D.A. ignored studies raising concerns about the product, and that stories by the New York Times and other outlets criticized the LFTB before ABC ever aired a report in 2012.
“What you’ll see is, the cat started to come out of the bag. The air started to come out of the balloon, the secret started to slip away,” Butswinkus says. “And when did that happen? It started in 2009 — long before the first ABC report.
He also says the company’s three largest clients, McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell, stopped using LFTB before ABC aired the reports in March and April of 2012. The trial is being held in Union County District Court in Elk Point, South Dakota.
(Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)