“Beef’s Raw Edges”: a series of 16 stories that ran over three-consecutive days recently in the Kansas City Star. This series raised plenty of serious issues including beef safety, nutrition, the use of antibiotics and growth promotants and the environmental impact of feedyards. These issues are all important to their readers – however they have coined another nickname in ag with “Big Beef” and characterizing those people who raise beef in the US.
Daren Williams, NCBA, noted that the articles stated 48 times throughout the series the label "Big Beef" and was applied to a wide variety of companies and organizations including the beef checkoff. As we all know, the beef checkoff reflects the tremendous diversity within the beef community encompassing large and small farms and ranches raising a wide variety of beef choices for today’s consumer, including grain-finished, grass-finished, and naturally-raised beef. Beef raised by the people who invest in the beef checkoff is sold in large and small grocery stores, national chain restaurants, local diners, and direct to the consumer via the internet and local farmers’ markets.
Other media jumping on board
Harvest Public Media also put out a special report stemming from America’s Big Beef. This group took a look at the industry to examine what goes into our meat; safety, research, genetics, environment and consolidation. When you examine all of the facets of the beef industry that the KC Star and Harvest are looking at, we could certainly look like “big beef”.
There is so much that goes into beef: starting from what my husband does of working with producers to choose the best genetics for their cattle to be artificially inseminated, to raising that calf, feeding it at the feedlot, processing it, cutting down the primals to steaks or hamburger and shipping it to restaurants, grocery stores or your house. There is a big process to this! But how else could it be done? There are millions of people that consume beef everyday and in order to satisfy this demand, this American industry has figured out the best way to humanely care for the animals that efficiently produce safe protein. It seems like just as the seed industry has gotten a bad rap for “big is bad”, beef production has been tagged the same.
Maybe the KC Star and Harvest reporters don’t think there are people behind the beef? Maybe they don’t truly understand the values that farmers and ranchers have to taking care of their cattle? Maybe they don’t really don’t care about anything except getting a rise out of people like me?
I won’t apologize for my rant. It is not fair that beef and agriculture are under this scrutiny. It’s not fair that food issues are Harvest Public Media’s “integral part of their mission”. But it is reality. Some days I love the role media has on influencing others and getting them information. In this instance, I curse it. But it gives us a chance to correctly educate – or provide the correct information – on our industry of raising beef, its importance and the people behind it.
The Bottom Line
Farmers and rancher share the same concerns our fellow consumers have for the safety of our families, our health, and the health of our planet and we work hard every day to continuously improve the way we raise beef to meet consumer expectations.