Beef agvocacy (agriculture + advocacy) does not take any special skills, science or art. It takes your effort to share about what you are doing as a beef producer and explaining production practices that make it easy for food-eaters to understand. As agriculture, we’ve come to a point in time where it is not enough to just do what we do. Our entire industry is under scrutiny for raising food that meet food-eaters, and sometimes political, standards. Food-eaters like farmers and ranchers; but they don’t understand the production practices. This means we have a great opportunity to do just that! And it is as simple as using shared values and explaining what and why you do what you do.
This week, I had the great pleasure of speaking at the Colorado CattleWomen’s Conference as part of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association Annual Convention, Red, White And Beef.
My main topic was beef agvocacy and sharing tips and successes for the ranch-women to take home to put into use in their own agvocacy efforts.
Taking that first step.
The first step we naturally want to take is to be on the defense: defending what we do when we see, hear or read that someone is against our efforts in raising healthy, safe and nutritious beef. It’s important to know when and why to respond. Sharing your opinions may seem proactive at first, but in reality it could create controversy. On social media, when you see an issue potentially showing it’s sneaky head, monitor conversation or the issue. There is no need to draw attention to the topic if no one is talking about it!
If you feel the conversation is taking root in your community or online, then it is time to develop and implement a response.
Take heed the important 10*80*10 rule. 10 percent of the population are so far on the anti-agriculture side, you’re not going to change their mind. The 10 percent on the other side just don’t care. The 80 percent is the moveable middle – our audience of food-eaters who do care and we can help give them the educated information for them to make their own choice.
Get the tools you need to be successful agvocates.
Masters of Beef Advocacy is a free, online, self-paced program where you complete five courses in beef advocacy: The Beef Community, Raising Cattle on Grass, Life in the Feedyard, From Cattle to Beef, and Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. This is one of the best resources out there for learning specific talking points about sharing with consumers. Put this on your bucket list and do it today!
Engage training is hosted by The Center for Food Integrity where they share their research on building consumer trust and using the power of shared values. This training session is a group, in-person training, but you can find out about being involved in this training at www.foodintegrity.org.
Let’s get on the offense with beef agvocacy.
If we all openly talked about, for example, why we use antibiotics in our beef animals, and people easily understood – the issue would be a non-issue. So the only way to make controversial issues a non-issue is to keep talking about it and make it easily understandable for food-eaters.
When you’re talking with food-eaters, consider shared values. This is what you have in common with the person you’re talking with. Maybe you’re both moms, or you both enjoy a certain type of food, or you happen to be in the same community group. Start out sharing your concern for this issue with the fact that you relate with that person. This commonality provides an inclusive relationship with them that helps them trust you.
State the facts but use emotion, not (always) science. Be real when you are talking about a beef issue, yet it is important to tie in emotion to help them understand.
It’s super important as a beef producer to share your story!! It’s vital to be Credible (which you already are as a beef producer, but be sure to mention it!), Positive, Inclusive, and Real.
Keep up with current research in the beef industry and consumer-trends information. Also, read up on beef and anti-beef news.
Be mindful of the words you use.
Much of the wording we use today worries consumers. “Industry, processing, operation….” these are common words I tend to use when I talk about our ranch. But if food-eaters don’t know what they mean, they could take them the wrong way. We have an opportunity to turn negatively perceived phrases into positives.
So when you are using buzzwords like antibiotics and hormones make sure to equate:
Antibiotics = keeping animals healthy
Hormones = maintains growth
Sustainability is an inherent part of our business.
Sustainable is a buzzword literally buzzing in the news, media and among food-eaters’ conversations. What gets me is that consumers have seemed to “hijack” this word (and other trending words) as their own to define. Sustainability is what we have been doing for hundreds of years in agriculture!! We wouldn’t still be here if generations past hadn’t been sustainable. It’s an inherent part of our business. We need to use “sustainable” in our dialogues with consumers to help them equate it to what we are already doing!
“The reason we use antibiotics on our ranch is to keep our animals healthy. We want to having healthy animals so we can keep producing healthy, safe and nutritious beef. That is sustainability!”
Lastly, when talking to food-eaters, be sure to convey that you are:
Open, Honest, Transparent, Emotional, Positive, Credible, Inclusive, Factual & Relevant