Lean meat is very popular with meat-eaters. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only kind of meat that meat-eaters in America eat is lean meat. Ask anyone if they’re a meat-eater, and they’ll say, “Not much. I just eat some lean meat. Just a couple of times a day, at most.” Apparently, everyone who eats meat has a special affinity for lean meat. Or maybe not so special, since it’s so common. I don’t think there’s a single fatty meat consumer in America.
Do you know who invented “lean meat?” The same guy who invented “clean coal.” Here’s how it works. There’s a problem with your product. Coal is dirty. There’s no way on earth to clean it up. You can’t burn coal and make it smell like aromatherapy oils, and you can’t burn
it without your eyes burning, too. Meat is fatty. You can’t de-fat it. So you need to find a way to handle that problem. The solution doesn’t involve the product; it involves p.r. You can call coal clean, and you can call meat lean, and fool people.
When I used to write tv shows in Hollywood, tv producers had a term for this strategy: “hang a lantern on it.” Let’s say the writers are finishing up a script that’s a murder mystery, and in the climactic scene, the murder victim’s accountant confesses that he was in love with his client’s wife and put arsenic in the man’s whiskey. Then the writers have a woops moment—oh, shit, we’ve already established in the first scene that the victim was a reformed alcoholic. Why would he drink the whiskey?
So you have to hang a lantern on it. You add a line for the murder victim’s daughter in the climactic scene, “Gee, it’s too bad that Dad started drinking again after he learned that Mom was banging the accountant.” Now it all makes sense. In the same way, the meat industry decided to hang a lantern on the fact that their product is fatty by inventing something called lean meat that doesn’t actually exist but it gives them and their consumers a talking point.
You’ll notice that the asparagus industry doesn’t have to do this. They don’t have to invent lean asparagus. The celery industry doesn’t have to invent lean celery. But if you’ve got an industry with a problem, hang a lantern on it. All kinds of industries can profit from this strategy. The videogame industry could come up with: “Mortal Kombat—Suburban Moms low-violence edition.”
Let’s deal with reality. Meat is roughly 50% fat and 50% protein, and it’s not like you can make it more lean by breeding a cow or pig that has more carbohydrate or fiber because, sorry, flesh does not contain any carbohydrate or fiber. It’s all protein and fat. The protein is
excessive, sulphuric, and carcinogenic, and the fat is excessive and damaging to your arteries and your heart.
There’s no way to deal with the problem but semantics. Just say that you eat “lean meat.” You can always wash it down with some low-alcohol vodka.