WASHINGTON -- There are beefier issues for politicians to address, but there are few other issues that deal so directly with beef.
On Monday, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) became one of the first members of Congress to take on the controversy over Taco Bell's so-called beef product, releasing a statement pitching his home state's meat as a more authentic alternative.
"When I go to a restaurant, I expect the beef I order to be beef -- not 'filler' -- and my guess is most Montanans, and Americans feel the same way," Tester said in the statement. "Montana's ranchers raise the best cattle in the world. If Taco Bell needs to beef up, they can give their customers the highest quality meat around by using Montana beef, and in the process, supporting agriculture jobs in Montana. And that's a win-win."
Taco Bell is facing a serious legal problems over allegations that its beef is, well, not real. The fast-food giant denies the accusation, saying that in addition to the spices and alternatives, its beef is 88-percent authentic cut. It's even launched an ad campaign pushing back against the lawsuit.
Tester didn't attempt to litigate the debate on Monday, just to benefit from it.
There may not be obvious political implications in the Taco Bell controversy, but the senator's statement is a prime example of how politicians can find a local hook in even the most disjointed of national issues. Tester is up for reelection in 2012, and getting any number of jobs from a spike in Montana beef sales certainly wouldn't hurt his chances.
Tester also has a personal stake in the issue. As The New York Times' Carl Hulse notes, the senator is a butcher who brings his own home cuts to Washington.