Who are these varmints? They're preteen and teenage girls who are declaring they want to be vegetarians. After a marketing research report by Teenage Research Unlimited indicated that one in four teenagers considers vegetarianism "cool, " the beef producers tried to halt the vegetarian stampede with a media blitz.
Gored by a recent report that young girls are turning to vegetarianism and avoiding meat, the beef industry is fighting back, not with Colt 45's or Winchester rifles but with a campaign loaded with beef and bull.
The Cattlemen's Beef Board, the Cattlemen's Beef Association, and Circle 1 Network have joined forces to convince girls that it's "cool" to eat beef.
"Cool 2-B-Real," an internet production directed at "real girls like you" at http://www.cool-2b-real.com promotes beef to preteens on a colorful site filled with games, recipes, contests, and a chat room.
One important feature is the Smart Snackin' page that presents some "Fun Snackin" recipes for "after-school snacks, sleepover parties, or just plain fun for friends." Included are recipes for Nacho Beef Dip, Beef Taco and Cheese Pockets, Cheeseburger Mac, and R.B.V. (Roast Beef & Veggie) Wrap.
On the same page is a quote from Judy --age 12: "I make sure I eat a healthy diet sometimes by listing down what I eat each day or remembering what I eat. I'm always careful."
If Judy were careful she would not have an R.B.V. Wrap that's loaded with roast beef, cream cheese, and ranch dressing. This "snack," a cattleman's delight and a nutritionist's nightmare, contains 698 calories, 44 g of fat, 135 mg of cholesterol, and 771 mg of sodium. Any young girl who eats a few of these might turn out to be as large as the cow the R.B.V.'s came from.
The Meatball & Veggie Platter is another equally obscene "snack" touted on the website. The young snackers will be exposed to broccoli florets, carrots, and cucumbers but those veggies will be accompanied by meatballs, ranch dressing and parmesan cheese that will put any young girl on the road to obesity. This platter provides individual servings with 45 g of fat, 40 mg of cholesterol, and1048 mg of sodium.
Both of these recipes are an excellent source of protein, niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and zinc. Unfortunately, these nutrients are placed in a delivery system of fat and sodium that could endanger any young girl's health.
The cattlemen's campaign is designed to persuade young girls and their parents of the dangers of a meatless diet. The meat producers cite research studies that suggest that young people who don't eat meat have poor health, low self-esteem, eating disorders, and even suicidal impulses.
"We hope the 'Cool 2B Real' campaign helps girls make healthy decisions about food and exercise," says Mary Young who is a registered dietician and Executive Director of Nutrition for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. In "Where's the Beef (In the Teenage Diet)? an article appearing in the January 30 issue of Time (online edition) Young refers to vegetarianism as one of the "wacky eating behaviors" teenage girls tend to favor.
In The Philadelphia Inquirer story on February 7, 2000, Michele Shuker, a nutritionist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, labeled the cattlemen's views as "hogwash." She says, "One does not need beef to live a healthy life."
Dr. Neal Barnard, president of Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine, says in his book Eat Right, Live Longer, "I strongly suggest avoiding meats and dairy products completely. They contain so many ingredients that accelerate free radical and chemical attacks, artery deterioration, hormone shifts, bone loss, and weight problems that there is no reason to include them ever."
A companion site to "Cool 2B Real" that has not received as much media attention is Burger Town, http://www.burgertown.kidscom.com another effort by the cattlemen to promote beef as an essential part of a young person's diet.
On its Arcade page, Burger Town invites children to participate in games like Burger Boggle, Grillin' Chillin' and Zip Racing Game. They can click on Drive Thru Diner where they will find the Kidscom Cookbook that features 20 recipes like Ghoulish Goulash, Hot Diggity Dogs, Seasons Meatings, and Can't "Beat Beef" Recipes
Burger Town also has a Health Club page that emphasizes Fighting BAC (bacteria). The page details how young people and their families should handle and cook beef to "beat bacteria" and avoid becoming ill. It carefully avoids mentioning listeria, e-coli, and other pathogens likely present in meat that are potential health hazards.
The home page asks the young person to vote on the following question:
Eat up! How many ounces of cooked beef make one serving?
Evidently someone at Burger Town will tally the votes and report the results to the readers, if anyone is bothering to participate.
VIP agrees with Katharine Mieszkowski in her Salon Magazine article (February 11, 2003) who, in referring to "Cool 2B Real," says, "This is an I-got-a-cow-to-sell-ya sales job that insults the intelligence of the average 12-year-old."
In her story Mieszkowski quotes Andrew Butler of PETA who says, "I think the site ("Cool 2B Real") is fine if you aim to be really fat and really constipated."
VIP sincerely doubts that anyone over the age of five will buy the cattlemen's bull. In this "Cool 2B Real" campaign they have come off as 2Stupid to Be Believed. One might say they have butchered themselves in an effort to save an industry that is dying as more Americans announce, "I don't eat red meat."