Susan Hammons had a doubly bad day on July 25. The day before, the Romance, AR, cattlewoman had missed her husband John's 90th birthday and the trail ride he had enjoyed that day with their daughter Kimberly and friends back east. Hammons was still stewing about that missed opportunity as she sat in a Dallas, TX, hotel room, brooding about the rejection she'd just received from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Retail Committee.
Earlier that day, Hammons, as chairman of the Special Projects Committee for the American National Cattle Women (ANCW), had presented an authorization request for $150,000 in checkoff money to fund a “promotion/education program” on ground beef safety that went down to a 6-5 defeat. She and 250 other ANCW members, all of whom underwent training on ground beef safety and the benefits of ground beef irradiation, were hoping to use the money to fund a year-long, two-part project.
For the first part, they hoped to send ground beef safety-trained ANCW members to 15 East Coast locales.
“These would be in states with either understaffed state beef councils or no council at all; and, in most cases, no cattlewomen,” Hammons says. “We want to bring in cattlewomen from other states for strictly educational efforts, going into schools, educational associations, women's expos and state fairs, to tell them about beef safety.”
The project's second part involves sending ANCW volunteers to 20 events in states with beef councils. The volunteers would attend health fairs, educational conferences, food service meetings, etc.
“We're most interested in reaching parents, teachers, school administrators and food service people to teach them not only about the benefits and process of irradiation but also the need to continue use of safe food handling programs,” Hammons says.
Unfortunately, a slim majority of NCBA Retail Committee members were concerned that “promoting” irradiation might engender a perception among consumers that non-irradiated ground beef is unsafe, Hammons reports.
“The request we took before the Retail Committee was labeled as a promotion/education project. The committee, however, didn't want anything to do with promoting irradiated ground beef period. It's the good beef — bad beef syndrome,” she reports.
As a result, the committee refused to forward the request with its blessing to the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB), the body charged with administering the checkoff.
Nonetheless, the ANCW request still has life. On Sept. 17, Susan will be in Denver, CO, to present the funding request directly before the CBB. At the suggestion of NCBA's Retail Committee, the ANCW deleted the word “promotion” from its funding request.
“When we (ANCW volunteers) talk to folks about irradiated beef products, we stress very hard that even irradiated product must be cooked to 160∞ F. We demonstrate meat thermometers, and we talk about safe food processes and food contamination. It isn't just about irradiation,” Hammons says.
The issue seems such a slam-dunk to Hammons that she's puzzled by the recalcitrance of some in the NCBA leadership.
“I'm hopeful the members of the CBB will recognize the importance of getting ahead of others — anti-meat folks — who are spreading their own message,” Hammons says. “The industry needs this voice and the cattlewomen do a darned good job in just this type of work. We're extremely credible, particularly in dealing face to face with other women. After all, we're producers, mothers and also consumers of the product.”
Hammons is hopeful that her Sept. 17 pitch before the CBB is successful. And, woe be to CBB members if the ANCW authorization request is again denied.
“Sept. 18 is my birthday, so they better do right by me,” she quips. “It would make a great birthday present.”
Leonard Wulf Passes
Our condolences to the family of Leonard Wulf of Morris, MN, who passed away July 26 at 77 years of age. The internationally renowned Limousin breeder was a tireless industry worker who died following a four-year battle with leukemia. He leaves his wife Violet and 11 children. Memorials should be directed to the Leukemia Society, 5217 Wayzata Blvd., Suite 221, St. Louis Park, MN 55416.