Commentary: Ranting and raving

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A San Francisco blogger posts a vicious attack on the entire meat production industry. Nothing new there — only his hatred is triggered by one company buying another. Seriously.

Somewhere, the late, great Hall of Famer Jimmy Dean is turning in his grave.

HOFer, as in a Member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Meat Industry Hall of Fame — although for accuracy sake, let the record reflect that Dean was elected by his peers to the latter institution before he was (posthumously) recognized by the stuffed shirts in Nashville.

Why would he be agitated? Because some no-name wanna-be journalist smeared one of the most prestigious brands in the industry, a franchise that the legendary entertainer spent the better part of his career building from the ground up, starting from little more than a bright idea.

And Dean wasn’t one of those celebrities who loans out his name to some third-party marketer that capitalizes on his fame for a cut of the deal. As was true with his recording sessions, television shows and hundreds of live performances over the years – he was hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves, cowboy boots-on-the-plant floor-entrepreneur. And when the Jimmy Dean brand faltered in the late 1980s due to misguided marketing by then-owner Sara Lee, he personally stepped in to film a series of TV spots that injected new vigor into the product’s image and put black ink back into the line’s sales performance.

Now, enter one Mark Morford, a blogger who writes for, a San Francisco-based Hearst Communications property. I’m not aware of any journalistic credentials he may have earned, but I’ll give him credit for one thing: his vicious, venomous diatribe against Tyson Foods was as thorough an anti-industry rant as I’ve read in quite awhile.

So what was Tyson’s “crime” that prompted the linguistic middle finger? Announcing the acquisition of Hillshire Brands, the current incarnation of the Sara Lee legacy, which includes the Jimmy Dean line (and Sara Lee, Ball Park and of course, the Sara Lee meat brands).

Morford fantasized that the deal triggered a “weird, painful spasm in the national colon.”

It apparently produced a visceral reaction for Mr. Morford, since he posted close to a thousand words of hate-filled screed taking the company and everyone associated with it to task for a litany of evil that was breathtaking in its scope and scale.

“Something rather dire has transpired,” he wrote. “Something creepy and banal, fatty and soaked in synthetic hormones, blasted with bleach, injected with filler, ground up with various leftover animal bits, grease, feces, oil fumes, a few million fingernails, lost and desiccated dreams.”

That’s a bit over-the-top, even for a virulent vegan who obviously expresses the peaceful, enlightened serenity that flows from his veggie diet in scathing attacks on producers, packers, processors — basically the entire meat and poultry industry and all of animal agriculture.

You really have to read Morford’s “essay” in its entirety ( to appreciate the depth of his enmity, but suffice to say that he targets capitalism, corporate marketing, factory farming, animal welfare, food safety, antibiotic and hormone use, pollution, ag gag laws, government regulatory agencies, the fast-food industry, the Supreme Court — and I probably missed a few targets.

He calls the Hillshire acquisition “one heavily toxic megacorp buying up another toxic megacorp,” and suggests that Tyson now owns a portfolio of “the weirdest and most fat- and preservative-encrusted ‘handheld’ meat-like products in the universe.”

Oh, but he’s just warming up.

“Jimmy Dean, Sara Lee, Ballpark Franks—[they’re] the kinds of products that, shortly after you eat them, cause your vision to wobble, your heart to seize and random extremities to lose sensation for a few hours,” he wrote. “Giant, blandly evil companies that have your best interests nowhere in sight coming together to make you even more sick and addicted to chemically blasted, malformed food products for the sake of massive profit, and to hell with your regulation and your concerns about animal treatment, national health, obesity rates, spiritual well-being, the very definition of “meat.”

I’m happy to indulge the people who claim a genuine spiritual motivation to eat only plant foods, and there’s certainly room on the political spectrum for advocates of diversity in both agriculture and business. When it comes to the latter, I’m right there with ’em.

But unlike veggie activists who try to coax people into giving up meat for (alleged) health benefits, haters like Morford simply spew vitriol on an entire industry for no legitimate purpose.

He does get one thing right, though, in mentioning that “he falls to his knees in humble thanks for this madhouse foodie town, for how absurdly spoiled [San Franciscans] are in terms of quality, options, education.”

Yeah, the operative word is “spoiled,” to the point that there’s no empathy for the millions of fellow citizens who depend on cheap food, for those who earn a paycheck working for not only the megacorps he loathes but also for the thousands of small-scale, mom ’n pop shops and stores and processing plants turning out the high-quality, artisanal foods he worships.

Unfortunately, we can’t all be California bloggers with the luxury to live in one of the country’s most affluent cities, a “madhouse foodie town,” and deliver lectures to the rest of us on the pathologies they perceive in 21st century America.

We’re not perfect, neither as a nation nor an industry.

But when it comes to “heavily toxic” mega-rants, Mr. Morford needs a lengthy session with the bathroom mirror.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.

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shaun evertson    
Nebraska  |  June, 13, 2014 at 11:13 AM

Eeewwww! I had to wash my browser out with bleach after clicking on that link. The fundamental question, I think, is whether militant veganism causes deep psychosis or the psychosis causes militant veganism.

SD  |  July, 02, 2014 at 06:39 PM

It seems more often in recent years that it is difficult to take seriously anything coming out of San Francisco! Nothing new from the food hating people determined to tell others what they may or may not eat.

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