While enjoying a warm and lazy summer morning here, I squeezed in a little time to catch up on my Bloglines subscriptions.
It seems that an entity called "The American Lamb Board" is pimping lamb, and I mean pimping hard. They even have themselves a very non-profit sounding ".org" on their website. StephenCooks, whom I not only admire but LIKE (really really like) wondered if the American Lamb Board was on the up and up, and asked Farmgirl Susan, of the incredibly popular Farmgirl Fare blog, to add her two cents. The most important thing she said was this: "But of course, naturally raised, grass-fed lamb that is hopefully locally produced is not as easy to come by--and it's going to cost more than the stuff at your average supermarket whether it's American or not. Unless it's marked otherwise, supermarket lamb will most likely come from animals fattened up quickly on grain in feedlots."
Stephen wasn't the only blogger to accept free lamb (nothing wrong with freebies!) from the American Lamb Board, and who blogged about it. So did these good folks:
Having recently been buzzed by marketers to pimp their products, I was already on Cynical Red Alert mode. I suspected unholy (or at least, unhealthy) alliances, especially when I saw that Fleishman-Hillard was involved.
For those who read my recent post about "Moove Your Ass Out of Here, Evil Marketing Idiots," you may remember Fleishman-Hillard's unsuccessful attempt, back in November, to get me to market the idiotic "Healthy Mr. Potato Head" for the National Potato Board. The upshot of these two stings is that I am even more cynical than ever about doublespeak and marketing buzzwords. Any kind of "national board" has me going straight to the website to sniff around for the inevitable stink of corporate inhumanity, and evidence of tainted political connections.
I didn't have to look long.
Don't get me wrong: I agree with the idea of American lamb because it's unconscionable to eat meat that is flown literally halfway around the world from New Zealand, et al. But somehow I didn't think that the environment was driving the campaign to get people to ingest even more meat than they already do. Nor did I think it was altruism on the parts of the copywriters and ranchers to be so concerned with American health that they would bend over backwards to promote the low-calorie, protein-rich meat. In three-ounce portions, yeah, right. (Because it's so typical to eat such a small amount, right, America?)
An overview of the website provides interesting information. Not all of it is clear, and I am certain that not all of it is INTENDED to be clear. First of all, the word "checkoff" appears countless times, but it's never defined. (It's rather like that word, "daypart" that is used in the fast food industry, indicating the profitability of certain mealtimes. For A & W, their best 'daypart" is lunch, for KFC, it's dinner, so that's why you see them sharing stores: to maximize profits.)
At the ALB website, on the page for "lamb industry: checkoff accomplishments," I find this:
Your lamb checkoff has accomplished a great deal in a very short period of time. We want to celebrate our successes in FY 2004 with all of the contributors and industry partners! Our successful promotional programs would not have been possible without your contributions. ALB is proud of the accomplishments of the checkoff program and will continue to work hard to invest your checkoff dollars into new and innovative programs that will most efficiently increase the demand for American Lamb and increase the industry’s opportunities for profit.
Emphasis, mine. Remember that ".org" in the web address? How disingenuous is that? From Wikipedia:
In the US and the UK, the .org TLD is mostly associated with non-profit organizations (in the latter '.uk' is usually but not always added after the '.org'). In addition to its wide use in the charitable field, it is often used by the open-source movement, as opposed to the .com domains used mostly by companies.
This isn't NPR we're talking about, folks. The American Lamb Board folks are all about the profit: they have an advertising budget that is nearly $1.5 million! Non-profit, my ass. But because (another red flag) they are under the auspices of the U. S. Secretary of Agriculture (whom I trust, implicitly, like I'd trust Roman Polanksi with my teenaged daughter), they are slightly off the political radar, at least with Googleable connections. The indirect connections, however, are a different story.
So, Spidey Senses all a-tingle, I got to work Googling. I have used Typepad's wonderful new feature of building a free-standing page (not a blog post) to make a few points about the bedfellows of the American Lamb Board. Will be you shocked to know that they are (duh) allied with the American Meat Institute? Doesn't "American Meat Institute" sound nice, like a studious, white-walled environment where scholars assemble to discuss pristine theories about, well, meat? I'm sure PETA would have you believe that the walls are as blood-spattered as the labs their own people destroyed, but who knows?
MY RESEARCH AND COMPILATIONS:
I had left a comment on Stephen's blog, saying: