As cattle producers, like me you know it’s frustrating, at best, to read or hear headlines and stories about the cattle industry in mainstream media that you know are not accurate.
You can respond in letters, social media, or face-to-face, and tell folks how YOU care for your animals and the environment.
In most cases, your firsthand stories are extremely helpful and effective in getting the true story out to consumers, because consumers generally trust producers and want firsthand information. But it’s not enough on its own.
Today’s consumers have more questions about how beef is raised from farm to fork than ever before, and they demand scientific proof to answer their questions about things like nutrition and environmental effects of farming and ranching.
And, while consumers may believe you are doing a good job, how do you prove that you are not the only producer following proven good care practices?
Thanks to your dollar-per-head investments into the Beef Checkoff Program, all the tools are in place to safeguard you and the beef industry from misinformation, misperceptions, crises, and the emotional rhetoric from misinformed sources or anti-meat individuals and groups.
In addition to sharing accurate information through the Facts About Beef website, your checkoff works on a daily basis to help consumers understand how you raise your beef. It uses the truth to shut down misinformation before it ever reaches the public. And if it can’t be headed off in advance, your checkoff is at the ready to respond with facts and science when myths are purported.
You might hear this safeguarding process called “reputation management” or something of the like, and there’s a lot more strategy and engagement to it than most folks could imagine.
Season Solorio, who directs the beef checkoff’s issues reputation and management program, has said, “Our role is really protecting and preserving consumer confidence in and consumer demand for beef.”
Solorio said since almost all consumers aren’t involved in what happens on farms and ranches every day, they may look at issues and say ‘Maybe I am going to limit my beef demand today or this week or this month.’
“That's the last thing that we want. Ultimately, what we're really trying to do is make sure that first, consumers never hear about those issues, but if they do then we want to make sure they get the other side of the story. They need to understand that the headline or the 140-character soundbite on Twitter that they read – might not be the entire story,” she said.
The checkoff’s market-research efforts are a critical part of the safeguarding strategy. That research helps the beef checkoff understand what issues are on consumers’ minds and combines with a tremendous amount of digital and social ‘listening’ and tracking to understand – real-time – what consumers are talking about when beef issues or misinformation arise. Ultimately, the beef checkoff is ready to answer the questions that consumers have.
Protection from threats like these is a key component of long-term success of the beef industry – especially considering consumers’ growing demands for transparency of cattle and beef production practices, impacts, and responsiveness to their values and needs. They want the truth that makes them comfortable with every step of the process and the final product if they are to continue or increase their beef purchases.
That’s just one of the important things the checkoff provides.
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