A few weeks ago, I spoke to students at South Dakota State University in an opening keynote for their brand new Beef Leadership Experience Program that was launched this year. I had the opportunity to catch up with an up and coming leader in the beef industry, Matt Dybedahl, who spent his summer in New York City as an intern with Pfizer Animal Health in the Cattle Marketing Division. This experience allowed Dybedahl to interact with consumers, and he quickly discovered firsthand how many different impressions they have about where their food comes from. Dybedahl shared these experiences and offered some advice for producers to effectively tell the agriculture story in a "New York minute."
“I was going to Washington D.C. one weekend, and I met an animal rights extremist on the bus,” remembered Dybedahl. “We got talking about things, and I tried to explain animal production practices to her in ways she might understand. For three hours we discussed her concerns on factory farming, and I had to explain to her that ranchers don’t abuse their animals. She actually thought that dairy cattle were hooked up to milkers 24 hours a day, seven days a week!”
“One thing that I learned from living in the city is that there are a huge number of people that have the same ideas about agriculture as this woman did, and farmers and ranchers don’t even realize it,” said Dybedahl. “So many consumers eat organic food because that’s what they think is best. They don’t even question it; they simply follow the trends because they read something somewhere. Many of them avoid red meat and eat chicken most of the time. Most would never even consider buying a steak or a pork chop. Many of them believe beef is bad because of the fat or because of antibiotic use. It’s really very frustrating. My advice for other producers is if they get the chance to tell their story, even if it’s for five minutes, take advantage of it. Get the person’s email, so you can send them additional information. Don’t be afraid to speak up and give agriculture a positive image.”
Kudos to the next generation of agriculturalists for their hard work across the nation in telling the agriculture story. It's young people like Matt Dybedahl who aren't afraid to stand up and speak out that are truly an inspiration to all of us! Have you told the agriculture story to a consumer today?
BEEF Daily Quick Fact: 87 percent of girls ages 6-11, 74 percent of girls ages 12-19, 76 percent of boys 6-11 and 45 percent of boys ages 12-19 are eating less than the recommended servings from the meat group, which can lead to serious consequences for their physical and cognitive development. Just one 3-ounce serving of lean beef is an excellent source of protein, zinc, vitamin B12, selenium and phosphorous, and a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, iron and riboflavin.