FRESNO, CA: Central Valley Meat Co. hired Edelman for crisis communications this week after an animal welfare group released video footage showing mistreatment of cows at a California slaughterhouse operated by the company.
The agency is fielding all questions and media inquiries for Central Valley Meat. Tyler Suiters, VP of international affairs at Edelman, confirmed the hire but declined to comment further on the work.
Central Valley Meat issued a statement Tuesday saying it was cooperating with federal investigators and developing a plan to fix potential violations of government guidelines. The US Department of Agriculture shut down the Hanford, CA, slaughterhouse Monday, and a federal investigation into the company is ongoing.
The USDA and McDonald's suspended purchases of meat from the facility Wednesday, but federal officials have not issued a recall. The USDA bought 21 million pounds of beef from Central Valley Meat between October 2010 and September 2011 for the National School Lunch and other federal food programs. The fast-food chain said the percentage of its meat bought from the slaughterhouse was in the single digits, but declined to comment further.
“Central Valley Meat provided raw beef to several of our suppliers,” McDonald's said in a statement. “Upon learning about USDA's decision to suspend [Central Valley Meat], we took immediate action and suspended supply from this facility, pending further investigation. There are behaviors in the video which appear to be unacceptable and would not adhere to the standards we demand of our suppliers.”
McDonald's longtime agency GolinHarris did not immediately return a request for comment.
West Coast chain In-N-Out Burger also cut ties with Central Valley Meat on Sunday. The slaughterhouse had provided about 20% of the fast-food company's meat each week, planning and development EVP Carl Van Fleet told the Los Angeles Times.
Burger King and Jack in the Box also removed the company from their approved lists of suppliers this week.
Federal officials began investigating Central Valley Meat last week after animal welfare group Compassion Over Killing released a video shot covertly at the slaughterhouse. The footage shows workers beating, kicking, and stepping on cows.
In March, the beef industry came under fire after ABC News reported that finely textured beef, then commonly called “pink slime,” could be found in 70% of ground beef sold in US supermarkets.
Beef Products Inc., a manufacturer of boneless lean beef, temporarily shut down three of its four production facilities. Working with Ketchum, the company responded to the crisis with an op-ed style ad in The Wall Street Journal, a website, and a filmed walkthrough of one of its plants.
The National Meat Association aggressively reached out to media outlets, and the American Meat Institute conducted a traditional and social media campaign, though neither group hired a PR firm to handle the crisis.