It’s a fact of life that the connection between city-dwelling consumers and the farm grows ever more distant. There are those who are simply unaware and there are activist groups who are constantly working to cast doubt and suspicion on beef production practices, as well as the safety and nutritional profile of our products. The activist groups are intense, vocal and very well-funded. But the beef checkoff continues to share the positive beef story and the truth about how beef is raised, its health benefits and nutrition facts.
If you meet an anti-beef militant who insists that beef production is the major source of global methane emissions, what would you say? If a neighbor or friend or a consumer you happened to talk to at the grocery store told you he or she doesn’t eat much beef because of its fat content, could you share a few basic beef nutrition facts that could persuade this person otherwise? The good news is – there are answers you can give these people if you yourself are armed with the facts and the beef checkoff is giving you those facts. Beef producers need to be as passionate, confident and vocal in telling their stories as the activists are. Part of doing this will be easy. For example, if you’re intensely proud of your operation, or it’s been in your family for generations, there’s sure to be passion in your voice when you talk about the beef business. Now, to back that passion with some simple yet powerful details about beef safety, nutrition, animal care and more, the beef checkoff has just launched the new Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program. The MBA program is a free, self-directed online training program designed to equip producers and industry allies with information they need to be everyday advocates for the beef industry. After completing six courses, graduates will be invited to attend a full day final exam/graduation ceremony focusing on public speaking and working with the media. After completing the program, participants will be ready to become everyday beef advocates and to get out and meet consumers where they live. This may be as simple as talking to friends, family and neighbors, or going out to broader audiences, such as schools, businesses and civic groups to tell the beef story. To date, the MBA program has enrolled more than 300 participants. Producers can take the courses on their own, or participate in a class, like the one organized in Kansas which will graduate about 35 students today. While the Kansas Beef Council and the Kansas CattleWomen already have a volunteer advocacy called the Beef Action Network (BAN), Kansas Beef Council Executive Director Todd Johnson likes the MBA for its formalized curriculum. “The checkoff-funded MBA courses complement our program, since we’re less formal in training our volunteer advocates,” Johnson explains. “Everyone who goes through the MBA program learns consistent messages so we can speak with one voice on behalf of the industry, no matter where we are or who we’re talking to.” Johnson says he’s naturally confident talking to producers but is taking the MBA course so he can explain the industry more succinctly to consumers. “I’d like to be able to answer consumer questions with some simple, direct facts that will help them better understand our industry, because they’re viewing it from quite a distance. “ Kansas State University Beef Cattle Institute (BCI) graduate assistant Chelsea Good helped organize the "Kansas class," which includes students from K-State's College of Agriculture and College of Veterinary Medicine. “Students need to be involved in beef advocacy because they are the future of the industry,” she explains. Good adds that a younger generation of beef advocates can share positive beef facts with their peers, while these young consumers are still forming lifestyle habits. “People tend to make long-term eating choices before they’re 30, particularly if they’re considering becoming a vegetarian,” Good explains. Additionally, these younger beef advocates are comfortable with and well-versed in using the multitude of communication channels young people rely on these days. “There are huge opportunities to reach young consumers who grew up with the Internet by getting the beef message out online. People are posting negative and often misleading information about beef production online every day. We need to make sure our side of the story is there as well.” The MBA program will ensure that producers and industry allies are using pages from the same book and are prepared to talk beef with whomever they feel most comfortable with, whether it’s a neighbor at the feed store, a newspaper reporter or an Internet blogger. The bottom line is – the beef checkoff implements programs like the MBA because if we aren’t prepared to be the most passionate and informed advocates for our way of life and our products, who will be? For more information, check out My Beef Checkoff.