ELK POINT, S.D. (CN) – In the second week of a planned eight-week showdown between South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc. and ABC News over defamation claims, jurors viewed a clip from “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” in the basement of the Union County courthouse in Elk Point, South Dakota.
The clip shows British food celebrity Oliver dragging a cow on stage to show a studio audience the beef trim-making process, which includes the beef being doused with ammonia and spun in the washing machine.
“Would you want to feed your children this?” Oliver asks, presenting raw, pink, whipped hamburger to audience members as they shake their heads.
Attorneys for BPI hope the 12 jurors will find Oliver’s clip just another hit-piece in what it argues is the American Broadcasting Corporation’s campaign to distort the safe and scientific production of “lean, finely textured beef.”
The trial is unfolding in the small town of Elk Point, South Dakota (pop. 1,900), an hour south of Sioux Falls and near BPI’s Dakota Dunes headquarters. It centers around a March 7, 2012, report by ABC News national correspondent, Jim Aviles, in which he reported on the controversy over “pink slime”—a processed lean beef produced by BPI—found in fast food tacos and hamburgers.
After the broadcast aired, BPI faced heavy public backlash and had to close multiple plants across the Midwest.
“Pink slime,” the phrase that disgusted viewers, is a pejorative term for “lean beef,” BPI lawyers say. They suggested that the Jamie Oliver television episode—aired in the spring of 2011—suggests that ABC had a history of wanting to tell a lurid story without bothering to find out the facts.
BPI attorney Dan Webb questioned the beef company’s spokesman, Rich Jochum, on the witness stand about whether ABC News ever included information on BPI’s record of consumer safety or the common process behind the beef trim product.
“No,” Jochum said, noting that the network had used a photograph published in “The Washington Post” of the company’s South Sioux City plant.
“How did you feel when you saw Oliver’s show?” Webb asked.
“Outraged,” Jochum said.
“Was anything accurate?” Webb pressed.
“Only that we separate beef from fat,” Jochum said. “Otherwise, nothing.”
The trial is expected to run through the end of July.