Big Beef vs. Small Children

April 29th, 2003
Image from

I love a filet mignon or a backyard cheeseburger. But the more I learn about the huge corporations behind today’s American beef, the guiltier I feel about financing them.

Consider Cool to be Real, a Web site funded by the big American cattlemen’s lobby and designed to persuade little girls to spend more time stuffing their faces with beef.

The site poses as a health, fitness and nutrition resource. It encourages partaking in “Nutrition-To-Go,” which means gulping down foods like chili and cornbread, and barbeque beef sandwiches. “Smart Snackin’ recipes” include “Beef Taco and Cheese Pockets,” “Beef on Bamboo,” and “Pizza Pie with Mashed Potatoes.

More choice cuts from the site:

“‘Real Girls’ are busy and need lots of energy. You can get that extra energy and build muscle – which helps your metabolism – by eating regularly, at least every three to four hours. Be sure to get both protein and carbs in every meal. Enjoy a beef wrap for lunch or spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.”

“As energy requirements increase, so should protein intake. Chow down!

I don’t want to pay these dirtbags another cent of my money. But how can I find American beef that’s not affiliated with this site? Won’t I have to give up cheeseburgers, or order my beef from New Zealand? Not for long. I hope.

Imagine: when networked wireless devices with cameras are cheap and widely used, I’ll be able to take a quick snapshot of the label on the meat that I’m considering purchasing, right there in the supermarket. Server-side software can scan the UPC code and match it to records in a database of food producers, distributors and retailers.

The database, maintained by journalists or concerned citizens, can spit back the information that I want — in this case, whether the people who brought me this package of meat helped to finance “Cool to be Real.” And whether they irradiate their meat. And whether they shoot up their animals with dangerous drugs and hormones.

At my PC, I can specify which criteria concern me. At the supermarket, I can scan a product with my device and then see a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down, based on what matters to me.

Already we have technology that can do all of this. To make it happen we just need enough interested people to build it out, enough concerned consumers to read up on these corporations and update the database with the facts about what goes on behind the scenes, behind the labels on the food that we eat.

In the meantime, I’ll hold off on that cheeseburger.

(Disclaimer: I didn’t come up with the vision of consumers in stores scanning UPC codes on the fly. Versions of this idea have been making the rounds for years. I’m not sure who first wrote about this idea, but it might have been Howard Rheingold in his blog or in his book Smart Mobs. )

Baby photo courtesy of

7 Responses to “Big Beef vs. Small Children”

  1. comment number 1 by: Erik

    Ahh, now that would be a grand day indeed. Politically correct shopping without adding time! A very nice concept but I think I can only see it coming out of the open source sector to begin with.

    But a cool idea!

  2. comment number 2 by: David D.

    I don’t like cool-2b-real any more than you do, but I’m not sure I’m getting your meaning about your beef purchases financing it.

    First of all, that dinky little Web site probably cost next to nothing to make and maintain.

    Second, and more importantly, I think cool-2b-real finances cool-2b-real. That is, the Web site is supposed to pay for itself by increasing beef consumption among little girls. I don’t think they rely on beef purchases by 30-year-old men to subsidize an otherwise money-losing campaign.

    Finally, why pick on cool-2b-real, just because its so transparantly awful? Anyone who looks at that site, including most people in their target market, will be quite offended by their absurd and obvious attempts to manipulate children. So, why say that that’s so awful, but give a pass when the beef industry has a more subtle and effective campaign, such as “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner,” which accomplishes much more harm to both children and adults, not to mention cows?


  3. comment number 3 by:

    RE: “…that dinky little Web site probably cost next to nothing…”

    I don’t care whether it cost $10 grand or $3 million, it’s very bad business, on a large scale or on a smaller scale. Having said that, I think there’s a lot more to it than you think; it reeks of marketing research.

    RE: “I think cool-2b-real finances cool-2b-real.”

    That argument isn’t practical because you can frame it and define it almost any way you wish. The money to build this site comes from the pool of money controlled by a particular branch of the beef industry. I presume most of that money comes ultimately from beef consumers. You could say it comes from beef consumers named Fred, or from beef consumers in Florida only, but in the end it makes no difference. The money comes from the beef industry, and some of that money comes from me when I buy its beef. Nevertheless, one of the few things that would be -difficult- to argue here is that the money spent to build the site came exclusively from little girls.

    RE: …”why pick on cool-2b-real, just because its so transparantly awful?”

    Because it’s so blatantly awful. I don’t think that this would be transparent to all little girls.

    “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” is a different story because it’s not an outright lie and because it doesn’t specifically target children.


  4. comment number 4 by: David

    So this site is funded by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The NCBA is, among other things, a pro-growth-hormone, pro-irradiation, organization (see ).

    It follows that, since organic beef producers oppose hormones and irradiation on principle, they don’t contribute to this swill. There are farms in Oregon and Colorado with products on the shelves here in Massachusetts. I’m sure you can find some in California.

    So buy organic beef. As an added benefit, your meat won’t be enhanced with growth hormones, high levels of bacteria, antibiotics, radiation, and cow shit.

  5. comment number 5 by: blackie

    Dare I state the obvious? It’s cheaper, better for you, and has really great side effects.

  6. comment number 6 by: Christy

    This comment might be late but I have to say this.

    You said something about buying your meat from New Zealand? They do the same thing around the world because the fact is the same handful of beef czars control the world market. Pretty much unless you get the underbudgeted and un-heard of organic beef or go out and find your own non-tampered with cow, raise it, and kill it you’re stuck.

    An interesting website that you would probably like is you don’t have to believe everything but remember the milk industry wants to make money too, and the love of money is the root of all evil.

    Anyway the way they treat milk-cows and their calves is pitiful. Do you know that the calves aren’t even allowed to drink their mother’s milk? They drink soy milk. Another reason they do it is, because of all the hormones, the calves wouldn’t grow properly and probably wouldn’t be able to produce milk.

    And the adds tell us to drink how many glasses of hormone infested milk a day?

    And they target girls too, says it will make us skinnier.

  7. comment number 7 by: Megan


    It might be important for you to do a little bit of research on dairy cattle and the products produced from them. There are no hormones in milk. BST is given to dairy cattle to increase their daily output of milk. The hormones affect the cows own hormones in order to cause this increase… Can you show me a research study that proves there are hormones in milk, I would like to see that. Baby dairy calves are not fed soy milk they are fed milk that can’t be put into a bulk tank for human consumption because a cow may have been sick and treated with an antibiotic. They are also fed milk replacers. Do you know how much it would cost a dairy producer to feed all of their calves soy milk everyday!PS. Protein is an important dietary function and I don’t believe this site was insinuating that everyone should be eating 12 ounces of beef at every meal. Red meat provides a lot of protein and I think young girls should be encouraged to eat it in moderation.

    PPS: Do some research before talking about something you have probably never even seen (ie a dairy farm)