In Greek mythology, Sisyphus is a king who the gods punished for his deceitfulness by forcing him to push a huge boulder up a hill for eternity. The rock would roll back down, and he had to push it back up.
That seems like a good analogy for the task our industry faces in correcting misinformation about beef and the beef industry. After seven years of blogging about beef, I feel like I’ve covered the same ground over and over again, and repeatedly answered the same questions from consumers.
Are hormones, growth promotants and GMO feeds impacting the healthfulness of beef? Should I be worried about E. coli? Do I need to eat organic to ensure my beef is safe? Is grass-fed truly better? Should I be worried about the fat content in beef? Wouldn’t turkey or chicken be healthier? Will my environmental impact be reduced if I go meatless on Mondays? Do ranchers abuse their cattle?
The list of questions that I’ve answered over the years has been wide and varied, but it always comes down to these main concerns: safety, nutrition, preparation, animal welfare and the environment.
The fact is we need to continue to provide education in these areas at every opportunity. Sure, we may have answered these questions before, and we may feel like the ongoing concerns are almost just background noise, or not our problem. But education and outreach needs to be a big part of beef producers' job description.
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I was reminded of this recently when I stumbled across a heated debate on Facebook about the impacts of eating conventionally raised beef. One side adamantly believed that people would start to experience adverse side effects from eating conventionally raised beef. The other side was confident in beef as a health food, no matter how it was produced.
Upon reading the comments, I realized that much education is needed, both internally as an industry and outside of our own comfort zones, talking to consumers. Beyond that, there is absolutely no reason for one segment of beef producers to pit itself against another segment. Instead, we need to focus on selling our product to consumers by touting the benefits of beef, whether it’s organic, grass-fed or grain-finished.
Yet, time and time again, I see producers from one niche market or another fighting back and forth about which is better. Truly, if the consumer will buy the product, it’s great. As long as the beef industry will continue to provide options for consumers to choose from, then all labels should be welcome in the meat case.
Regardless of what kind of beef you produce, or which part of the beef industry chain you are a part of, consumer outreach is a must. Let’s all become more active in social media sites and in conversations at upcoming state fairs. These are great opportunities to share our beef stories. Let’s not let them pass by.
What are your thoughts on this topic? What is needed to better educate consumers about our product, its healthfulness and sustainability? Is this a job that all producers should be involved in? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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