Three days ago, a good friend of mine (J) and I went on a Press PR tour of the Calwell Aniston Nutritional Supplement Organization (CANS-O) in New Jersey. CANS-O has started a massive PR campaign promoting its newly re-vamped processing plants in an effort to bolster the company image in direct response to the “Kicking the CANS-O” PETA campaign last year. The new pro CANS-O campaign targeting trendy urban populations states “Beans and rice may seem really nice, but potatoes and meat is the word on the street.” The CANS-O campaign slogan along with a comparison advertisement showing two contrasting pictures – one of a grimly smiling gaunt person holding a plain dish of beans and rice and the comparison picture of a healthy looking warm family dinner displaying a feast of food including meat and steaming potatoes piled high on a dining room table – is definitely turning heads and rumbling stomachs this summer. The PR tour of CANS-O’s recently opened Jersey processing facility was sparsely attended, but the picketing PETA people out front made it abundantly clear that CANS-O is facing a tough crowd in its campaign.
The tour began with a reasonably well produced video of the new developments in sanitary, safe, painless animal processing. “The machines of the future”, it stated, “use blade-less processing in the most sanitary and efficient plant in the world conserving energy for the future!” Granted I’m not entirely up on the “new technology” in the meat processing plants of today but I assumed by “blade-less processing” they meant Light-sabers or something, so when the came time for questions regarding the video that was the question I asked. The CANS-O rep responded, in reference to the cutting process, that it was done by pressurized water which doused my hopes of pre-seared beef in a can, but I can’t have everything.
In the next room of the tour J pointed out a list of the CANS-O products posted on the wall and jokingly indicated the lower left hand section where “Tofu” was indicated in the “Processed Meats” section. Though our several side comments about “bean beings” and “soy boys” weren’t received well by the others in the tour, I still have to chuckle at it a bit. I have to give J credit, however, as he stated at the time that if PETA knew that Tofu was listed as a processed meat they be on a rampage to save the Tofarts. Ah, if we only knew then what we know now.
Past the little white room where we had to don white lab coats, hair nets, and little shoe-covering booties was a giant room housing a confusing array of robotic arms, “processing boxes” (None of the actual processing was visible much to the relief of some of the less resolute reporters), and conveyor lines. The guide kept referring to the sanitary nature of everything in the processing line, from the receiving point of the various sources to the nearly fully automated variants used to process each type of meat. Though most of the actual processing points were contained within gleaming white boxes with large opaque tubes running into the floor obscuring any view of the likely distasteful processes, I couldn’t help but notice the interchangeable edges of the receiving bays, some of which hinted at red and were likely holding vats of raw animal bits.
Each glassed in room that we walked past was labeled by its CANS-O food trademark name so instead of saying things like: Cows, pigs, and chickens, the signs read a bit more like grocery aisles indicating “CANS-O-BEEF” or “CANS-O-CHICKEN”. J was furiously writing down the brands in an attempt to use them for some snarky pun. I really should have gotten that list from him before posting this.
Near the end of the tour we came to a room with a giant funnel shaped receiving bay and while the guide droned on about the alternate diet foods, J and I noticed a small sign behind the guide (which he seemed to be intentionally obscuring) that read “CANS-O-TOFURIGAN”. No question-answer time was offered in this particular bay, but I really wanted to know. So, prior to us leaving the receiving area of the Tofurigan line I asked the guide, “What is tofurigan? I’m not familiar with that particular label.” The guide sort of glossed over the question with a general answer about how all meats were labeled by brand, and how we were nearly out of time for the tour. I held J back as the tour continued on into the packaging room where the final products came out of the processing boxes in sealed generic packages bearing simple brand labels for later sorting by export country and final label language.
In the Tofurigans room J and I silently watched for any hint of the ingredients in this particular brand of what we assumed was meat. As nearly as we could tell, the only “meat” not represented in the tour was that vague reference to Tofu we had seen earlier, and my first guess was that the giant hopper in front of us was the receiving point for the soy beans, as the hopper was obviously filled from above. After about a minute, I noticed a small leakage point at the interchangeable edge of the hopper where it integrated with the first processing box. From what I could tell and from what little I saw, these were not soy beans at all. J had his ear pressed to the glass and said he could hear a high pitched squealing, something I had noticed as well. Apparently, the machines had actually been off or not receiving during the course of the tour and they were now back in full production to “show-off” the packaging room. The hopper inside the Tofurigan room suddenly shuddered as something inside had gotten clogged or misaligned. Whatever the cause, the hopper began to tear loose from from the latches holding it to the processor. As it tore free, the room was suddenly filled with thousands of tiny furry creatures scampering about and looking for places to hide.
The cute little fuzzy animals were small enough to fit in the palm of my hand and I had never seen anything like them before. I was glad Jean wasn’t there as I’m certain she and all her friends would’ve wanted to try to break into the room and save all the Tofurigans. J saw the door on the other end open first and, in order to not get caught where we obviously were not supposed to be, we slipped unnoticed into the next room where the starkly labeled “Tofu” packages rolled quietly by on their way to unsuspecting vegetarians the world over.