Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More Beef, Less Question

As I continue to study animal advocates I am learning more and more how and why it is so important that we show and speak the good things of our industry. I started my project for agvocate training this week. I chose to do the masters of beef advocacy (MBA) program because I have a passion for raising beef cattle and showed club calves in 4H when I was a little younger. I come from a pork producing grain farming family that used to run a cattle feedlot operation but got out of the cattle business when I was still a young kid. My knowledge of the beef industry is a little lower than other agvocates, but I feel that if I want to defend agriculture I need to understand more about other aspects of agriculture. This feeling combined with great reviews of the MBA program has led me to this program and I am very excited to learn from the presentations, handouts & homework.

The first lesson in MBA was an overview of the beef industry from cow/calf to processing. We also discussed the different labels or titles used to market beef such as the "organic raised" or "all natural" labels. I learned a lot about the differences teh USDA has put up as standards for each of these labels. I feel their are two underlying messages here and I want to explain why.

#1  We live in a country and society that allows us to choose what we want to consume, hooray for us! We should be thankful for this. The most important thing is that regardless of what you choose whether it is traditional, natural or organic you're still supporting agriculture and eating meat! That is the outcome we as an industry want. Hopefully you are confident in your choices and understand what is going into your food products when you make your selection. I encourage everyone to learn at least a bit of the differences in the meat selection.

#2   This is where the problem begins as an industry. Beef is safe, healthy & extremely nutritious and that is what we want consumers to understand and have confidence in. But when we put labels such as organic or natural we are unintentionally saying that one product is right and the other is wrong. Even if you don't mean to, I'm not trying to start fights among beef producers because I agree with most differences in the industry as to why you have diversity. But to consumers their is a greater chance of misinterpretation of the label by simply not knowing how beef is raised. The fact of the matter is that all beef is healthy, safe & nutritious, that is the message producers are trying to tell and when we tell our story and explain these facts it is important to bring light the differences in feeding methods so that consumers understand all beef is good.

I'm not an expert on cattle, beef production or marketing beef; however I feel that it is a simple task to explain the difference since we already have the job of advocating for our industry. The different feeding options that ranchers & farmers make can cause a sort of "gray area" that is lost in translation and needs to be found and brought to light by us (producers) so that the anti-animal groups don't spread more falsifications of beef's safe, healthy & nutritional background.