Ask cattle producers what business they’re in, and often they’ll say the cattle business. “But really it’s a business that begins with the American mom,” says Mary Lou Quinlan, CEO of “Just Ask a Woman,” a strategic marketing consulting firm in New York.
“Start to think not just of the steer, but the steak,” she told a group of cattle feeders recently. “You say you’re in the cattle business. She says you’re in the beef business – you’re in the ‘what’s on my plate’ business.”
To make sure beef stays on the plate, Quinlan challenged cattle feeders to become part of the conversation about the safety and healthfulness of conventionally-produced beef. “Conventional beef isn’t being out-sold by organic, it’s being out-told,” she says. “So before a greater number of shoppers get to the point where they’re making purchases out of fear or frustration, they need support so they can become more confident in the beef they’re buying.”
Quinlan suggests cattle producers first consider how they describe who they are and what they do. If you’re not producing natural or organic beef, you probably think of yourself as a “conventional” beef producer. However, Quinlan suggests that “traditional” may resonate better.
“Traditional means a lot of things. Traditional is the emotional high ground. It recalls those family dinners. And it’s also beef that is raised with traditional care – best practices, things that have been learned and hold true from generation to generation.”
Quinlan says three pillars describe who you are and what you do as a beef producer.
The first is trust. “(American moms) know you must take good care of your cattle because your own families depend on it.”
The second is safety and Quinlan says because of USDA inspection and oversight of the beef business, cattle producers have that in spades.
The third, and perhaps most important, is freedom of choice. “Organic isn’t the enemy. The enemy is anyone who takes away her freedom of choice. Her common sense has been assaulted by propaganda in an effort to convert her and control her options, and make her feel guilty,” Quinlan says. American moms resist and resent that, because they feel their ability to choose what’s best for their families is being challenged.
To help cattle feeders become more involved in telling their own story, Quinlan suggested a phrase to use as part of their elevator speech: “We produce beef you can count on, beef you can depend on, that is going to come through for you and your family. Traditional beef, grown with traditional care, grown by America’s cattle farmer families, perfected from farm to market to table.”