By now, many of you have likely seen my open letter to Ellen DeGeneres that I penned following her Instagram video encouraging people to #BeNeatEatLessMeat.
I wasn’t expecting the blog to go viral, but the timing seems fitting as the evening I clicked “publish” on the post, I was at my alma mater, South Dakota State University, speaking to the Block and Bridle students and encouraging them to go out and be agricultural advocates.
Following my speech, I sat in the parking lot behind SDSU’s Animal Science Complex and put the finishing touches on my letter to Ellen. I wanted it to be kind, respectful, friendly and informative. I wanted to present the facts in a way that was approachable, reasonable and easy to digest.
I never anticipated the response from the agricultural community nor the vegan activists to be so huge, but the last week has been one I won’t likely forget. Three TV stations featured my story, along with several radio stations and podcast hosts. The media requests continue to come in, and I promise to keep sharing information about beef nutrition, environmental stewardship, the erroneous cattle and climate change link and who we are in rural America.
If you would like to listen to or watch some of my media segments, we will continue to compile them on BEEF here.
I’ll admit, it’s been an exhausting week — from activists inciting hate on my Facebook page and calling me hateful names such as “Zombie Serial Killer,” to the interviews that kept me on the phone much of the day. Some radio spots were three minutes, while one podcast ran one hour and twenty minutes long!
But through it all, the farming and ranching community here and around the world, has supported me wholeheartedly, lifted me up when I was feeling down and has joined me in advocating for agriculture with brave, honest posts that have truly moved me to tears.
I was inspired most by a nine-year old California cowgirl named Izabella, who told her mom, “We can’t let Amanda do this alone. What are we going to do to help her?” She then took to social media, sharing her story and offering to send folks a copy of the California Beef Council’s book, “Beefman,” for free!
I heard from vegetarians, who although they eat differently than I do, they appreciated my stance on protecting our nation’s freedoms to eat the foods we want without fear of sin taxes or the nanny state telling us what we should put in our bodies.
I heard from educators who connected with my message of reducing food waste and keeping nutritious beef accessible to the hungry, food insecure kids in our country who need it most! Meatless Mondays do not belong in school, Mayor Bill DeBlasio! (See my rant on my Instagram highlights if you want to know how I really feel on this topic.)
I also heard from 4-H and FFA members who have been inspired to use this letter as a launch pad to talk about beef, climate, cattle and nutrition in their speaking competitions.
And with each story shared with me, I was so incredibly humbled and honored that you took the time to read my little old letter and used it to make an impact of your own. THANK YOU doesn’t even begin to cover the amount of gratitude I feel right now. You all inspire me, and I think the agricultural community is truly like a family! So thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything this last week!
Now, I know you guys are all wondering — has Ellen called you yet?
Well, I did hear from two different people, who had connections with her producers; both told me her show was aware of my letter and the media buzz surrounding it. I got excited and began to have visions of sitting in her chair, dancing to a great country song, talking about beef and gifting my children’s books, “Levi’s Lost Calf” and “Can-Do Cowkids” to her audience.
However, after I saw a segment from Ellen’s show advertising a plant-based burger company, any hopes I had of her contacting me were dashed. It’s unlikely with paid sponsorships like that, she would want me on the show. However, I’m at peace with this, and here’s why.
Thanks to your help, the letter and resulting media interviews have allowed me to share this message with millions of people. And I think it’s worth noting that on air, I’ve been able to share much more than just facts about beef nutrition and how cattle are a critical component of planetary health.
In addition to presenting this information in interviews, I’ve also shared stories of family farmers and ranchers who are quietly doing amazing things every day in rural America.
Things like the All-American Beef Battalion, an organization that grills steaks for the troops and their families as a way to say, “thank you.”
Or the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation, a group that hosts the Prime Time Gala each year to raise money to supply our state’s food banks with healthy beef.
And there’s the Cowboys Who Care Foundation, a non-profit that spends times visiting hospitals and gifting kids battling cancer with custom cowboy hats to wear when they lose their hair during chemo treatments.
Your work matters and is making a difference. Please, keep sharing these stories on social media! These are powerful examples of the good we can do in the world if we work together as an agricultural community!
Ellen, if you’re reading this, I want you to know the heart of who we are in cattle country.
I want you to know there is kindness, goodness, charitable spirits and giving hearts here in rural America. We work the land and tend to our livestock not just because we love it, but because we truly want to help humanity and provide the essentials for life — food, fiber and energy.
So to everyone who has followed the ups and downs of this week — thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything! Yet, even as we take this small victory lap, we must remember that there is still got plenty of work to do.
Last week, a Rachael Ray segment made erroneous statements about beef production and water usage. On SnapChat, the Food Network featured a taste-test of plant-based burgers and made claims that reducing our meat consumption will save the planet. Bloomberg’s editorial team recently published an op-ed saying we must all implement Meatless Mondays to reverse climate change. And CNN released a report suggesting Americans will need to cut beef consumption by 40% to feed the world in the next 30 years.
Sadly, these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. The punches will continue to be thrown at the beef industry, and we desperately need strong, tireless voices to keep sharing their stories and the correct information with our consumers.
I’ll close with a small piece of advice — as you go out and share your stories, ignore the haters and focus on the 95% of people who are genuinely wanting to learn more about where their food comes from. You likely won’t hear from these folks; they are just quietly reading and observing.
Don’t let your stories be drowned out by the hate of professional activists. Don’t engage with these trolls; you’ll never change their mind. Lead with kindness and have fun, too! It’s worth our efforts to step outside of our pasture gates and connect with our consumers. I think if they have the chance to meet us, they will really like what they discover about the agricultural community!
So, let’s continue to work hard, be kind and hey, let’s eat some beef, too! Thanks for reading!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.