It's that time of year again...calving is in full swing, the spring thaw is well underway and it's time to hit the pavement and start training for summer races. Last year, my sister and I ran our first half-marathon, and I've been itching to get back into the swing of things. I've scheduled in six races to compete in, starting in April and ending in October, and I hope you will send words of encouragement to help keep me on track and cross the finish line strong.
In reading running magazines, it's evident that athletes are focusing more on what foods they are eating to fuel their bodies, and many have questions and misunderstandings about beef as a healthy part of a well-balanced diet. That's why it's so important for beef producers to be part of the conversation, which is the main focus of Team ZIP (zinc, iron and protein), a group of more than 400 runners, of which I'm a member, who believe in the power of protein in the land of lean beef. Members of Team ZIP demonstrate that beef gives athletes the strength they need to cross the finish line. These members participate in running, cycling and triathlon events across the country.
Two members of Team ZIP I would like to feature today are Calli Thorne, a ND beef producer, and Daren Williams, who many of you have worked with in the Masters of Beef Advocacy program. Both have been an inspiration to me in my running goals, and both are committed to combining their passion for the beef industry and their talents in athletics into one dynamic campaign for consumers. I spoke with Thorne and Williams about their Team ZIP experiences, and here is what they had to say...
"We started Team ZIP to promote beef as part of a healthy lifestyle and to demonstrate the 'power of protein' in a tangible way," said Williams. "It's one thing to talk about the power of protein in advertisements and magazine articles, but when we have athletes competing in marathons, triathlons and 100-mile bike rides wearing Team ZIP jerseys it sends a strong message to other athletes that the protein and other essential nutrients in beef provide fuel for the finish."
“I think it’s especially important for producers to be reaching consumers at events such as races because it’s places like that where you can actually find some of the most unhealthy people when it comes to eating,” added Thorne, who works as an extension agent of animal systems in Fort Berthold. “Often times, runners believe animal protein, especially beef, is not a nutritious choice for them, and they don’t completely understand the benefits of eating a steak before a race.”
"The Team ZIP running and cycling jerseys stand out in a crowd," attested Williams. "The image of a large T-Bone steak (one of the 29 lean cuts of beef) sizzling on a grill that adorns the front and back of the jersey catches people’s attention. As you run you’ll hear people shouting, “go beef” and, “you’re making me hungry!” My reply is always the same, “Follow me to the finish; I’ll be at the steakhouse.” Of course, we get the occasional vegetarian comment but that just makes me run faster. I’m not going to let them beat me! So the zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins in the beef help me run faster but the jersey provides extra the extra motivation I need to finish strong."
“I think that just about every producer has heard a presenter talk about the importance of sharing personal agriculture stories,” explained Thorne. “But, how many producers have actually done something to share their own story? I think it is vital for producers to begin responding, even if it’s in the simplest form. We need to stand up for our own industry, and stop letting someone else speak for us. All it takes is a simple letter to the editor or to visit with someone at the meat counter in your local grocery store. Take the time to speak up; your livelihood depends on it!”
Thanks, Calli and Daren for sharing your insights and experiences with Team ZIP. I hope these two will serve as an inspirational reminder for all of us to go out and tell our story with someone new. We have a fascinating story to tell; who are you going to connect with today?