Turns out getting your thetans read is expensive

By Tim Nelson
Updated August 20, 2018
Credit: Photo by Curly Courland via Getty Images

Scientology is a supposed religion whose methods and organizational hierarchy just so happen to resemble a pyramid scheme. In spite of that (or perhaps because of it), the church L. Ron Hubbard founded has lured a number of acolytes over the years with the promise of “going clear.” And while all the Hollywood celebrities affiliated with Scientology can afford the escalating payments needed to get deeper into the organization, new reporting shows that less-famous followers had to sell mysterious meat to Californians in order to up their Operating Thetan levels.

The Daily Beast recently took a deep dive into Scientology’s surprising connection to the world of California meat sales in the '70s and '80s. Though not officially an arm of the church, the workforce of Scientologist-owned businesses like Mr. Sirloin and Tully’s Premium Meats drew disproportionately from the ranks of believers, giving them a chance to sell meat on commission in order to pay their way up the ladder.

According to ex-Scientologist Conrad Romo, the model looked a little something like this: Use credit to rent a freezer truck, stuff it full of dry ice and a week’s worth of meats ranging from steaks to pork chops to dubiously-named “beef byproducts,” and sell them by any means necessary. The art of these deals was informed by both Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and the belief that Californians on food stamps would be more likely to pay for overpriced steaks than people spending “real” money. That led salesmen like Romo to tour low-income housing projects and post up at food stamp stores, offering the too-good-to-be-true chance to eat like a king.

Though Romo always felt the door-to-door meats were a bit overpriced compared to grocery store options, it turns out the whole enterprise was more of a ripoff than he knew. In 1988, multiple Tully executives plead guilty to “selling and transporting adulterated and misbranded foods” after it was revealed that they’d added chicken gizzard to their hamburgers, passing off the unholy concoction as pure beef.

The days of meat sales with ties to Scientology seem to be over, and it’s worth noting that hawking steaks wasn’t meant to be a surreptitious way to recruit new members. But that same need for recruitment money was the impetus for Herbalife, the multibillion dollar multi-level marketing company that you’ve probably seen someone’s aunt shill for on Facebook or Instagram. Either way, the fact that people sold bogus meat to poor folks in order to fund exorbitantly expensive Operating Thetan level courses won’t improve the image of an organization widely regarded with bemused skepticism at best.