I’ve noticed a trend among “agricultural advocates” that probably is an unpopular opinion. There seems to be a lot of policing about the right and wrong ways to reach consumers. If you deviate from the standard, you can often get a lot of flak for it with keyboard warriors attacking you at every turn.
A great example of this — when my open letter to Ellen DeGeneres went viral, there was a group of cattle women on social media saying things like, “Amanda Radke should really just learn how to keep her mouth shut.”
I thought it odd at the time to criticize someone for sticking their neck out and being vulnerable enough to share their stories with the media, especially knowing that when you do so, your story can be twisted to achieve an angle the reporter sets out to achieve.
It’s a hard place to be in, that’s for sure. Despite it all, I would encourage every producer, not just a select few with perfect advocacy training under their belts, to reach out to consumers and share how the food they grow on their farms and ranches gets to the dinner table.
Because really, just like no two producers are the same, no two consumers are the same. And that’s why all of our collective voices are needed in sharing the food production story.
For example, my opinions and experiences as a beef-producing, children’s book-writing, wife and mom of three from South Dakota will be greatly different than an organic vegetable farmer who lives just outside of Chicago and sells his produce at the city’s farmers’ markets.
Yet, both of us are doing our part to provide safe and healthy food for the world.
And when it comes to the topic of emerging alternative proteins competing for the meat case, there are a lot of different strategies for the best way to handle these Silicon Valley investors and their new trendy products that almost always come with a bashing of traditional animal agriculture.
Do we rise above it and focus on the merits of beef? Yes, that is absolutely, in my mind, the best route because I truly believe that beef is king and can handle the competition.
However, like I’ve said in previous blog posts, when your competition is wading in the mud so deep that it clearly appears their marketing strategy is to disparage your product, destroy your reputation, plant seeds of doubt with consumers and basically bully their way onto the center of the plate, that’s when the rules change for me.
And I’ll never apologize for standing up for beef and sharing my story as a boots-on-the-ground rancher. But that’s my prerogative, and others may have a different approach.
For example, the Center for Consumer Freedom is currently in a “food fight” with Impossible Foods as they battle over which product (beef vs. plant-based patties) has the scarier ingredients? Do I love the tactic? Not really, but do I think it highlights well what’s going on in our food industry today? Absolutely. Right or wrong, CCF feels the need to highlight the hypocrisy, and even if it’s not the route I want to take, their message will surely be heard by consumers who connect with that line of storytelling.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what any of us in production agriculture think about these fake meats. What’s most important is this: what does the consumer really think? Well, I guess it depends on who you ask.
Some recent headlines may give us some insights. Check them out and let me know what you derive from this collection of headlines.
1. “Tim Hortons pulls Beyond Meat off the menu, saying customers seem to prefer real meat” by Michael Lewis, The Star Business reporter
Lewis writes, “Tim Hortons has pulled all Beyond Meat plant-based products from its restaurants less than a year after the national rollout, saying that its customers seemed to prefer the ‘meat option’ in their sandwiches.
2. "KFC to sell plant-based nuggets in more than 60 restaurants” by RFD TV
According to RFD TV, “KFC, the nation's largest fried chicken chain, announced it would be rolling out plant-based Beyond Meat nuggets at more than 60 restaurants in the Charlotte and Nashville areas. If it is successful, KFC plans to offer the item at all locations.
3. “Johnson introduces bill to ensure clear meat processing and labeling” by Dakota War College
According to Dakota War College, “U.S. Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Darren Soto (D-FL) introduced the Food Safety Modernization for Innovative Technologies Act, a bill which would formalize a regulatory framework for food derived from cell-cultured technology.”
4. "Will Al Gore be the first fake meat billionaire?” by Marc Morano for CNS News
Morano writes, “Gore is involved with big investments in a company that makes fake meat substitutes, all the while he is pushing for climate-based anti-meat regulations. This pseudo-meat company, called Beyond Meat, was the most successful 2019 IPO in May, as determined by CBS News. Gore’s climate groups invested $200 million in this company, while studies from organizations to which he also has connections urged stores and consumers to look for meat alternatives – the very types of products in which Gore had just placed a massive investment.”
5. “Impossible Dumplings and Beyond Buns: Will China buy fake meat?” by Davide Yaffe-Bellany for the New York Times
Yaffe-Bellany writes, “Despite the long history of vegetarian proteins in Chinese cuisine, many consumers in the country’s growing middle class consider meat an important status symbol, or have radically different expectations from Americans about how it should be prepared. In recent years, a number of Chinese companies have begun developing plant-based products, but those mostly target vegetarians, not the meat eaters Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods hope to attract.”
6. "Is fake meat getting too much like the real thing?” by Zoe Sayler for the Grist
Sayler writes, “Then along came the Impossible Burger, a veggie burger that bleeds, thanks to a crafty concoction of beet juice and other things. And when my college co-op ordered them in bulk, raw and frozen, my frantic attempt to cook one — WHY was it still PINK!!! — left chunks of plant goo hopelessly crusted onto a previously well-seasoned cast-iron pan.”
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.