The Girl Scouts say it's beef for dinner - and dessert!

To Hell With Cookies 

The Girl Scouts say it's beef for dinner - and dessert!

For several months now, the sirloin of local media, the KC Strip, has promoted its meaty goodness to Kansas Citians, giving metro citizens the juicy truth and a real alternative to the gristle and fatty tissue offered up by other media outlets in this substance-starved town.

So imagine the relief this chuck steak felt when it learned that it isn't alone in its mission to spread the good word about the moral uprightness of a meaty diet.

Recently, our good friends at the Missouri Beef Industry Council began hyping their renewed commitment to convincing 8- to 12-year-old girls that they should eat a more "balanced diet."

Of course, when the state's beef producers talk about a balanced diet, they mean that young girls should think about a brisket appetizer and a little beef-a-roni to round out a meal of steak tacos.

But this is an especially weird time for the country's cow killers. On the one hand, every cattle baron in the United States oughta have a personal shrine to Robert Atkins in his home by now. The good (and recently deceased) doc got nearly everyone pigging out on beeves and swine as part of his low-carb diet craze and reversed the failing fortunes of meat producers everywhere.

But whereas overweight adults chomp down tri-tip steaks, pork chops and veal by the pound and panic at the sight of so much as a crouton on their plates, preteen girls are doing just the opposite.

In fact, recent polls show that girls in grade school and junior high increasingly think vegetarianism is "cool."

Talk about a cattle rustler's nightmare! Imagine Missouri and Kansas beef pushers waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, horrified that an entire generation might grow up thinking meat is icky.

But the Missouri Beef Industry Council isn't giving up without a fight. The council has sworn renewed allegiance to a national effort that the National Cattlemen's Beef Association started a couple of years ago, targeting Junior Girl Scouts for a little protein indoctrination.

Called Fit for a Princess, the program lets 8- to 12-year-old girls earn a patch for their uniforms by putting on a play written by beef producers.

This sounded like it had to be theatrical filet mignon, so we begged the council to send us a copy of the script.

And what a meaty treat it turned out to be. This porterhouse of persuasion has to respect the sheer subtle genius of Fit for a Princess.

First of all, what better way to subvert the hippy, feel-good agenda of the anti-meat feminist crowd than by appealing to the Cinderella in every American preteen girl and encouraging young Girl Scouts to dress up as princesses?

Scout leaders hand out paper tiaras for girls to wear as they take the roles of the "Princesses ZIP." These three royals exist solely to tell their subjects about the benefits of zinc, iron and protein in their diets.

When the narrator tries to begin the tale with the typical "Once upon a time," she's cut off by four jesters, who throw down with attitude -- this isn't your mom's Girl Scouts, you know.

"Oh come on, get real. Who's going to listen to a story that begins like that?" asks one of the little jokers. That cues this not-so-subliminal bit of product placement:

"Look, this is the 21st century. How about something a little spicier. Something with a little meat in it?"

Hey, that's crafty.

A bit of bad staging follows, leading to the princesses' grand entrances.

"We have come to share with you the secrets of a healthy life," says one.

The first of those secrets: "Zinc is a mineral the body needs ... It helps your body grow and heal itself. And beef is the primary source of zinc."

Similar testimonials are made for iron and protein (interrupted frequently by the annoying jesters, whose bad jokes this meat patty assumes make some sense to the prepubescent crowd). Finally, the princesses spell out the meaty truth:

Princess 1: "One serving of beef provides almost one-third of the iron,"

Princess 2: " ... three-fourths of the zinc,"

Princess 3: " ... and over half of the protein you need each day."

Take that, leaf eaters!

After the play, scout leaders fill out an evaluation, answering questions about whether the girls "better understand the health benefits of eating beef" and "can say how much beef to eat."

For filling out the form and sending it to the beef association, scout leaders are rewarded with free meat thermometers.

The leader's booklet also suggests that scouts arrange to perform the play in supermarket meat departments.

The Strip couldn't help wondering how many Missouri girls in tiaras have performed their lines against a backdrop of pot roasts and beef ribs in refrigerated cases.

"I haven't heard about a supermarket performance," says Barbara Selover, a nutritionist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association who helped develop Fit for a Princess. But that doesn't mean the play isn't a hit. "We're just seeing the orders pour in for this program," she says. She adds that more than 1,700 Missouri girls and 300 troop leaders have requested copies of the play.

The Strip is overjoyed to hear that youngsters are getting the right message. In fact, this plank steak of propaganda figures it can help out beef producers with its own contribution to the cause, a slogan it figures will catch fire with kids everywhere:

"Hey, girls and boys, KC Strip says: 'Eat me!'"

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