There is a segment of our society that has attempted to remove FAT from our diet over a time span of at least the past thirty years. In so doing, they have done more to destroy the meat industry than any other stumbling block it has faced.

Do we live to eat or do we eat to live? That is a question that seems to have gone full circle. In our quest for health and longevity, we seem to have forsaken all that is enjoyable in life for a few precious moments. Doesn’t this fly in the face of faith that is bigger than all of that which is produced upon this earth?

This is a belief that has precipitated from the medical profession. And, it is one that can be proven in a test tube, therefore the thrust of the heavy-handed doctor. The only problem with this analogy is that it is analogous to nearly every food staple that is consumed in excessive amounts. The difference is the ease of comparison. It’s evident that meat without fat is healthier, so is nectar without sugar or bacon without salt.

However, how much of either or like comparisons would you indulge yourself or if the essential elements of taste were removed?

That is exactly what we have done to red meat when we breed or feed to eliminate fat. Genetics and feeding rations play an important part in determining grade. Quality grade is nothing more than a reflection of both, and when we shortcut either we contribute to the problem of driving consumers away from the meat counter.

Some meat products have become so void of taste (fat) that they come to us with cooking instructions – as though the preparation of the product is the determining taste factor. I do know a poor cook can ruin a choice piece of meat, but I don’t know of any cook that can take a sub-standard grade of meat and make it taste scrumptious. It’s called satiety value — the ability of food to satisfy the palate.

Of all the food categories nutritionally available to us, none have been classified as having as high a satiety value as that of red meat. This statement has to be qualified to include only genetically selected and nutritionally fed livestock to attain the upper one-third of the grading spectrum.

The plight of taste touches on every segment of the food industry. The Sara Lee Corp., for example, is betting that we have a whole new population of consumers craving some fat. In response, they are coming out with a new product line called Calzone Creations, microwavable sandwiches with as much as 12 grams of artery-clogging saturated fat — 60% of the recommended daily intake of an average person.

If you get hungry before dinner, there’s now a cheesecake snack bar that Kraft Foods says will make the confection an “everyday indulgence.”

With Americans worrying less about fat and calories these days, food makers rolled out a raft of fat-laden, calorie-packed new products at the supermarket industry’s annual trade show.

Among the other new goodies: Single-serving packs of dip from Dean Foods that people can take to the office to make those carrots and other veggies go down easier; new versions of Nestle’s Power Bar, a staple of long-distance runners, that are essentially vitamin-fortified candy bars with up to eight times as much saturated fat as the original. Also, fat-fortified Oscar Meyer Lunchables sweet rolls that kids can carry to school for recess.

If Oscar Meyer is doing it, you can expect that it is the right thing to do. As an ex-employee, I learned many years ago that they were the leader of the meat industry, and thus the mentor of my very being in the livestock industry.

The point is that people are eating more for enjoyment than ever before. We can bear this out by looking at industry research which indicates consumer concern about fat has been falling in recent years, even as food makers have struggled to market low-fat products.

Among supermarket shoppers who say they are very concerned about nutrition, just 46 percent of consumers say they are worried about the fat content. That’s down from 60 percent in 1996, according to a poll sponsored by the Food Marketing Institute, the supermarket industry trade group.

Consumers have been so deluged with conflicting, sometimes misleading claims about nutrition and diet, that they have reacted by “tuning out.” This has led to more people taking an open-minded approach to managing their whole menu, and being led down that familiar path of taste.

Is it any wonder then that high-grading red meat is back by popular demand? And guess which breed of cattle has jumped on the bandwagon to take the lead in this newfound nutritional direction?

Black is now the dominant color of beef cattle in the United States — the evidence can be found at any livestock auction. And the influence of Angus genetics is visible at every conceivable point of purchase, be it the packer or the feedlot producer.

The dominance of the Angus breed is because of its genetic ability to marble. Marbling is fat, and it is the key ingredient in the composition of taste, flavor, and juiciness. Marbling is the primary component in determining grade, thus the influence and power of Angus genetics.

The growing Angus influence on American’s cowherd has become a major concern to most other competing beef breeds. Many of the other breeds got so caught up in the lean/low-fat movement that they lost their focus of satisfying the American public.

While several popular breeds can provide various genetic qualities that help meet consumer demand, Angus and Angus/cross cattle have gained an unprecedented position in the marketplace.

A recent study conducted for the American Angus Association confirmed the influence of Angus genetics. A survey of 400 commercial cow-calf producers found that 59 percent of those producers had purchased Angus bulls within the past 12 months. That’s up from 47% found in a similar survey conducted in 1998.

The survey goes on to produce data that suggests that the Angus breed has reached a position of dominance within the cattle industry. Moreover, it is evident that they have capitalized upon their strength in the form of several successful branded beef programs. It is the sort of dominance that the other beef breeds are going to find difficult to compete, as the American Angus Association’s genetic database includes more than six million individual animal records.

I take my hat off to the leaders of this breed for all that they have accomplished. Also, the rest of industry had the best salute them as well, for if it weren’t for the Angus breed stepping up to the plate, the 20-year erosion in beef demand would still be on a downhill slide. They brought the taste of beef back to the forefront!

As elated as I am about the Angus influence in turning around the beef industry, I am disillusioned with the pork people. They just don’t get it with their “other white meat” slogan. They promote this concept with such a sense of pride that they overlook the stupidity of such a claim.

The fact that pork has turned white over the years is exactly what has gone wrong with the product. Again, lean becomes the focus, without any regard for the quality of meat. As a result, they have come up with a tasteless PSE (pale, soft and exudative) product that is not as conducive to further processing or fresh meat appeal as that of the pork from yesteryear.

In the good “old days” hogs could stand a little stress and produce a product that had taste, eye appeal, and favorable manufacturing characteristics.

Why is this industry so dead set on flaunting its faults? Is it just because they don’t know any better, or are they trying to “force feed” the American public on superfluous findings of self-imposed mistakes?

The “Other White Meat” is a slogan recognized by nine in 10 Americans and has been a trivia question on the gameshow “Who wants to be Millionaire”.

I think it’s time to use a lifeline, and call a pork producer that knows the difference.

They are proud of this slogan recognition and maintain that it ranks among the top five most memorable advertising slogans in the country. Unfortunately, I believe they’re right — so remarkable that it may contribute to the demise of the pork industry.

It sends the wrong message!

No meat program has ever survived that wasn’t built upon the premise of quality, and be advised that fat is where it’s at — not to the extent of waste, but the contribution of taste.