Advocates needed: Link between cattle & coronavirus needs redirection!

It’s time to spin a dangerous misconception veiled as a joke into an opportunity to talk about beef’s many nutritional benefits.

Amanda Radke

March 16, 2020

6 Min Read
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Yesterday, I shared some thoughts about the coronavirus, looking at both the health and economic ramifications of this crisis. In case you missed it, you check out that blog post here:

Coronavirus: Observations from the airport & the ranch

While events continue to unfold and the world faces much uncertainty, the BEEF team continues to cover the impacts of this pandemic.

Read our previous posts on this topic here:

This week most certainly will be a stressful one, whether you’re an urban consumer or a multi-generational rancher. With schools closed, restaurants and bars forcibly shut down and the CDC recommending gatherings of 50 people or more to be cancelled, the U.S. is essentially on lock-down as we wait to see how far reaching COVID-19 will be.

Right now, you and your family may be social distancing or operating business as usual. Either way, you’ve surely noticed that social media posts on this subject have ramped up to basically drown out anything and everything else.

And with the many conflicting, polarizing and confusing articles out there, it’s no wonder we as a society aren’t sure of the ground we are standing on and where to go from here.

That’s the great thing about living in the United States — we all enjoy our freedom of speech and the ability to share what’s on our mind in a public platform without fear of recourse.

On the flip side though is due to the nature of social media, a lot of falsehoods can go viral and be taken at face value, even though they are incredibly inaccurate.

This can be dangerous at a time like this, for many reasons. Today, I would like to give you one example that I think we should all be aware of. While I don't write this to throw anybody under the bus, I do want to share some frustrations I have when we portray ourselves in a less than positive light for the general public to see.

On Friday, before I boarded my plane home from the Louisiana Women in Agriculture Conference, I received a phone call from a concerned beef producer back in South Dakota. She had seen a meme on Facebook that included a photo of the bovine rotavirus-coronavirus vaccine alongside a steak, and she asked me if I would have time to respond to set the record straight.

The meme read, “Since cattle in the U.S. are regularly vaccinated for the coronavirus, that basically means if you frequently eat beef you’re most likely immune to the virus! Spread the word! We should be stockpiling steaks right now people!”

The last time I checked, the meme had been shared 471 times, and there were many others like it created. The meme was largely being shared by other beef producers who got a chuckle out of what I’m sure was meant as a light-hearted joke.

The original poster later amended her meme by adding, "For all those getting so offended over my post, let me elaborate. This is a joke with intentions of making people laugh. We ALL know that vaccines, antibiotics, and other medications used on cattle are nontransferable to the meat and consumer. Have a great day and eat beef. It truly is helpful to your immune system."

Let’s face it — this pandemic is wreaking emotional, physical and economic havoc on our lives, and so if cracking jokes on social media helps to alleviate the stress and tension, I’m all for it. I get it, I really do. However, this meme has me concerned because while I know it was meant for the beef producer audience, from a consumers’ standpoint, what does this message imply? And how damaging is it to the reputation to our product?

I’ll lay it out for you — it implies that our beef contains traces of vaccines and antibiotics. What a dangerous, misleading piece of inaccurate information that if used in the wrong hands (remember that PETA is a shareholder of Facebook), this could be used against our industry. Consumers, who are already worried about feeding their families during this pandemic, might now have red flags raised because of this meme.

Now I would never take away someone’s freedom of speech, but I was informed that the state veterinarian had already called and requested that this individual take down the meme. She refused. I felt like this couldn’t go unaddressed, but previous attempts from advocates to communicate with her were being blocked and deleted.

So I just decided to change the narrative to something positive. I mean, do we really want our product tied to a novel virus that is taking over the world? I think not.

Instead, during this time, I want consumers to think about the immunity-boosting benefits of beef. Here’s how I responded:

Hey folks! I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy right now during the COVID-19 pandemic!

As we wade through the many conflicting social media posts and articles on this topic, you may have come across a meme meant as a joke about the coronavirus and beef. While I’m certain it was meant as just a light-hearted conversation piece, the message is quite misleading and dangerous.

At a time where our world is very concerned about this issue, I urge every producer to provide factual, grounded information that can help us all remain safe, healthy and informed about the foods we eat.

As a ranching mom, I want everyone to know that beef is a SAFE, wholesome food for your family to enjoy! It’s a great source of 10 essential nutrients, including zinc, iron and protein! Did you know that the zinc found in beef boosts our immunity to help our bodies fight off the cold and flu? Beef is truly my multi-vitamin!

Read more here: How beef can boost your immunity through cold and flu season

If you’re confused by this meme that’s floating around about vaccine use in the beef industry, let me be abundantly clear — high-quality beef begins with high-quality care!

When administering antibiotics or vaccines, beef producers follow product label directions or the prescription provided by their trusted veterinarian, meaning they adhere to usage guidelines. And science-based testing by the USDA FSIS ensures that the meat we eat is safe, thanks in part to the tireless efforts of producers to observe withdrawal instructions.

Simply stated, there are no trace antibiotics or vaccines in beef, EVER! If you have concerns or questions, please,  ask a rancher, and we’ll be happy to help!

So my friends — please, wash your hands, be safe out there, check on your friends and neighbors, and eat beef to boost your immune system! #EatBeefForYourHealth

The agricultural community will certainly be in the spotlight in the weeks to come. After all, in a pandemic when everything shuts down, guess what? Everyone still needs to eat. This will highlight the importance of farming and ranching and what we do in our rural communities to provide food, fuel and fiber for the world.

Let’s take advantage of this opportunity by sharing positive stories, uplifting messages and accurate, factual information. Let’s be a resource of calm, commonsense and science during a time where this is much confusion and uncertainty.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

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