My wife will tell you I can have a pretty myopic worldview sometimes. I know how vital it is to satisfy our consumers, and I’ve looked at the data enough to know beef demand is the key to our profitability and success. Yet, my focus tends to be much more on the production side – genetics, marketing and management.
Of course, all those people selling our product and building demand have my full support, but I tend to look at things from a distance. I just kind of assume that since beef tastes a whole lot better than pork and poultry, people will always buy it. I’m a beef guy through and through; if everyone ate like I do, all of us in ranching would be driving new pickups.
So, when I hear consumer advocates talk about trends, it seems kind of removed from me. I take the nutrition stuff in the mass media with more than just a little caution, having seen up close just how poorly interpreted and represented much of this information is. And, I look at much of the propaganda being put out by these activist groups as just that, propaganda, forgetting that it isn’t seen that way by most good-intentioned people outside of our industry.
When you factor in that I spend an overwhelming majority of my time with beef producers or those very familiar with our industry, it’s not surprising that I tend to minimize the negative effects of such doings on our marketplace. But, from time to time, even I come face to face with the real world and it scares the heck out of me.
One of my kids came home the other day after being shown the movie “Food Inc.” First, let me say that I live in the heart of rural America where agriculture and the cattle industry should be very familiar. Yet this film even raised questions in my admittedly brainwashed pro-industry adolescent.
What was scary was when he mentioned the names of girls in his class who were swearing off meat and other products after seeing the movie; it brought home to me just how pervasive and effective these anti-ag messages are. If this movie is being showed here, it’s probably being seen by a whole lot more people than I ever realized.
Then to top it off, I recently talked to my parents about a cousin. This cousin grew up on a farm but has since moved to the big city and has gone vegetarian on us.
And, while I was waiting to board a flight last week – to South Dakota, no less – I overheard two elderly women discussing how they were eliminating red meat from their diet for health reasons.
It was a confluence of events that illustrated to me just how tough a job we have ahead of us, not in only growing demand but in just holding it together.