This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Food Safety Scandals and Scares: Media Presentation of Local Beef




Shelley, Mary

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology


This study is part of a long-term project examining the attitudes of Southern beef consumers towards red meat food safety associated with Alternative Food Networks (AFNs). Previous work focused on locally produced beef and consumers’ willingness to purchase local beef in the event of a food safety or animal handling concern. When surveyed, some Alabama consumers claimed that no one influences their beef purchasing decisions even when confronted with a food safety event. This led to consideration of potential sources of information about local beef and beef food safety. In this sub-project, the ways in which the media frames local beef food safety is explored. It draws on the work of Bocking (2012), who examined the relationship between the media’s presentation and public perception. Between 2007 and 2018, 7,656 distinct news articles were published in Alabama and Georgia that pertained to AFNs. Of these, only 1,084 articles dealt with beef food safety in some way. The most common presentation (over 60%) of beef food safety was “shock and awe.” Shock and awe represents rhetoric that is alarming and frames the safety of beef negatively (e.g., listing the most gruesome symptoms of food poisoning from to E.coli contamination). The predominance of inflammatory language used by the media is noteworthy as it suggests that there is potential for public perception to be influenced to choose local beef by media presentation of local beef food safety.