The pork wars on YouTubeby Sea Stachura, Minnesota Public Radio
A battle is underway for the hearts and stomachs of meat eaters and, it's taking place on YouTube.
The video to video debate is between animal protection groups and the National Pork Board. Both sides see the most trafficked entertainment Web site as a marketing battleground, and each has posted multiple videos.
Rochester, Minn. — Let's view the "Meatrix" on YouTube, shall we?
This video is a cartoon spoof on the "Matrix." A bull in a trench coat named Moopheus, instead of the "Matrix's" Morpheus, unveils to young pig Leo the reality of feedlots.
The group Sustainable Table commissioned the video. Founder Diane Hatz says feedlots degrade animals, workers and the environment. She says the video is a way to educate consumers and prompt them to eat local, sustainable meat. It targets women ages 25 to 50.
"They're the influencers in the families, and women tend to care more, especially in the child-bearing years," Hatz explained. "If a woman is pregnant, has kids or is thinking about having kids they get militant about food."
People at the National Pork Board were watching the "Meatrix," too. So, unbeknownst to Moopheus and the makers of the "Meatrix," Pork Checkoff, the media-arm of the Pork Board, made and posted its own YouTube videos. This one is called "Pork Farmers Take Action."
In 2007 Pork Checkoff surveyed a small group of 9- to 14-year-olds. Of those, only seven percent had seen the "Meatrix." But the pork producers found those kids didn't like feedlots or the way feedlot operators treated their animals.
Public Relations Manager Theresa Roof says the characterization of feedlots by the "Meatrix" is unfair. She says Checkoff wants people to keep eating feedlot pork. To convince consumers it's safe, more videos are to come.
"As far as the cartoony type stuff, we're going to stay away from that," Roof said. "But we are going to see a more wide selection of producers, from young to old to small farms to large farms. Answering the hard hitting questions, answering questions from consumers."
"Pig Farmers Take Action" has been viewed 1,500 times in one month. At that pace, it will never catch up with the "Meatrix," which got 63,000 views in a year. But these numbers are a pittance in the YouTube video vortex. The most viewed video was seen over 90 million times.
Garrick Van Buren is a social media consultant. He says YouTube is useful only as a place to upload videos. It isn't likely the best destination site for marketers, because videos are lost easily in the heap.
"Figure out where the people that you are trying to reach are. Are they at Facebook? Then create a Facebook app. Find those people that are most likely to spread your message," Van Buren said.
Meat eaters are the real judges in this battle. So how many entered the "Meatrix" with Moopheus?
Let's ask a few.
Elizabeth Wickoren watches her two boys, Mitchell and Henry play car. Wickoren says she's mostly uses YouTube for information, like techniques for folding cloth diapers.
"I didn't use them with Henry or Mitchell; it's just one of a few things that we've been doing lately to cut costs," she said.
Wickoren is the perfect target for these videos. She's careful about what she feeds her children. Minnesota Public Radio sent her the links for the "Meatrix" and "Pig Farmers Take Action."
She said she found the "Meatrix" videos informative, and even showed them to her 6-year-old.
"He was very interested when they showed the animation of the baby cows drinking the formula that had cows' blood in it. He said, 'Momma, was that a true movie or just a made up story,'" said Wickoren. As for the Pork Checkoff videos, she said the content didn't interest her. At the same time, she won't purchase organic, free range meat promoted by the group. It's too expensive she says. She buys all of her meat on sale at the grocery store.
However, she does belong to a social networking site called Cafe Mom. It's like MySpace just for moms. She's connected with a number of subgroups on the site. She says she'll likely post the "Meatrix" to one of those groups.
- All Things Considered, 06/27/2008, 5:53 p.m.