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No one can tackle the love of American hamburgers

Progressive Cattleman Editor David Cooper Published on 24 April 2019

Soon after winning college football’s national championship in January, the Clemson Tigers were welcomed to the White House like Roman conquerors with a feast consisting of Big Macs, Whoppers and Wendy’s singles.

The team’s visit coincided with the government shutdown and no White House caterers on hand. So the president shelled out for the spread himself, bringing in burgers, pizza and fast-food fare to regale the champs.

I was less than impressed. “The best team in the land goes to the White House and gets food they could buy back at school?” I muttered. “That’s lame.”

My son, now 17, was ready for a debate. “Are you kidding? That would be awesome! All the burgers and pizza you want at the White House. Those guys will never forget it.”

He was right of course. Out of the mouth of babes.

America is, and always will be, a hamburger nation. It is, as the late Anthony Bourdain said, our national dish. Like the invention of baseball, its origin is obfuscated by mystery and myth, borne from legends in towns and county fairs across the country.

And like most American legends, it’s not going away.

Political efforts to rein in climate change will be discussed and debated, as they should. Our planet is a precious place. But those efforts, much like the recent Green New Deal legislation, lose traction if they take aim at ag industries producing what Americans love to eat. Such is the power of the hamburger.

The next stage of the battle is imitation. “If you can’t beat ’em …” Plant-based products are going into burgers, made from peas, mushrooms, soy, right down to the beet juice. Major fast-food franchises are putting them on the menu saying it’s what customers want.

I don’t think the beef industry has to be threatened by those products. Choice is choice. Ingenuity and hard work by producers have given us several options in the marketplace. Taste is in the eye of the beholder, and all of us don’t want to eat the same thing. Just don’t take away the choice of someone else.

Same goes for cell-cultured protein products, although there are legitimate issues in how we’re going to label these products. Because when it comes to real beef, customers deserve to know if it’s the product they’ve always loved or something else.

Years ago, I kept a checkoff poster in my office with all beef cuts. Co-workers would come in and tell me how they preferred their favorite tri-tips, tenderloins and ribeyes. One day, our founder Leon Leavitt, the beloved patriarch of Progressive magazines, studied the chart, then said, “You know what’s best on here?”

He pointed to the image with ground beef patties. “I just love ’em.”

He was right of course.  end mark

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