Wednesday, May. 25, 2011

Where's the Beef?

During the height of the mad-cow scare in 1996, Oprah invited Howard Lyman, a cattle rancher turned vegetarian, onto her show to discuss controversial practices within the beef industry, including a process now banned in the U.S. called "rendering," which involves turning cow organs into feed for other cattle. While Winfrey challenged some of Lyman's more outlandish statements — which included the suggestion that the disease could become as infectious as AIDS — she exclaimed at one point that his revelations had "stopped me cold from eating another hamburger!" Beef prices plunged for nearly two weeks after the episode aired, eventually reaching a 10-year low. In response, a group of angry cattle ranchers in Texas filed a $10.3 million lawsuit claiming she defamed the entire industry. They lost. "Free speech not only lives, it rocks," Oprah told reporters in February 1998 after the Amarillo, Texas, jury ruled in her favor. "I'm still off hamburgers," she added.