Saturday was an opportunity to enjoy a great beef meal and hang out with those passionate about the beef industry. North Central Cattlemen had their spring banquet in Aberdeen. Much of the table talk and social chitchat revolved around issues facing the industry. Snow or lack of it was also a common topic.
Cory Eich of Epiphany, S.D., is president of the South Dakota Cattlemen and shared a few thoughts. He had attended the National Cattlemen's Beef Association convention in Tampa, Fla. He told the group that major items of discussion at the convention concerned animal health and final traceability rules.
Amanda Radke, cattle producer from Mitchell and freelance writer for BEEF Magazine shared some of the hot topics relating to beef as well as encouraging the audience to speak up about their profession.
Amanda said part of her job is to keep an eye on consumer trends, watching what major media outlets are saying about the industry.
One of the commercials she helped produce for the Beef Council featured cooking a ribeye roll. Instead of going to the freezer at home, she went to the local market to order the piece of meat. She talked to the man at the counter and learned from him suggestions about how to cook the cut of beef. Her bill came to $127.
When taking into consideration the price tag, Amanda noted that many consumers are restricted by a hamburger budget and can't afford to pay that price. We need to help them to cook smarter, without putting a strain on their budget, she said. With chicken, you can cook it many ways and it tastes the same. Many don't know how to cook some of the less expensive cuts of beef. By educating the consumer, those dealing with a limited budget can enjoy tasty meals of beef. She noted that there are 14.7 million people on food stamps who really have to stretch their food dollars.
We need consumers to know that beef is safe and it's OK to feed families, she said. They have heard about 'pink slime' and now headlines are telling them that horsemeat is being found mixed with beef in Europe. They want to know if there are more dangers in the U.S. beef supply.
Because of these situations, consumers are not sure if they can trust the label. There are elitist consumer groups waiting to pounce on any problems and use an app to speak out. Beef producers need to establish a dialogue with these groups. Start a conversation and help them understand what goes into the process. We need to debunk myths.
She noted that the biggest buzz came with the Superbowl commercial, 2013 Year of the Farmer. Those two minutes continue to reverberate today as 180 million people watched it, and Dodge Ram committed money to FFA to build more leaders in rural America.
She wrote a book called Levi's Calf that is being shared through the Ag in the Classroom program. It's based on ranch life. When she's read the book to groups, she said that kids come up with great questions and some really tough questions, too.
Some asked, Why do some calves die? Amanda said she explained about the circle of life. Other times she was asked, How do cows make the calf? How do the calves get out of the mommy cow? What do they do when it's cold? Amanda said sharing the story gave her an opportunity to teach as well as refer some questions back to their parents. No matter what they asked, it started them thinking about questions about where their food comes from. And that is great.
We need to create a common thread with those outside of agriculture for them to understand our story, she said. There are many tough questions out there. Read and respond to articles and be a part of the conversation about food safety and what goes into your daily operation.