Millennial Movie-Making Project Encourages Consumers to Understand Today’s Beef Production Practices
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Suggested Lead: Michael DeTerra is a documentary filmmaker from Eagle River, Alaska, and a senior at Washington State University. The beef checkoff recently commissioned DeTerra and two other students to direct and produce videos on beef farming and ranching so consumers could hear about beef production straight from the source: the people who do it every day. DeTerra’s film, “The Care Package: Cattle Welfare in the West”, explores the measures taken by farmers and ranchers to ensure the optimal condition of their cattle and illustrates the strides made over the past three decades to improve the animal handling process. His film also features interviews with some of the industry’s most influential leaders, including animal behavioral scientist Dr. Temple Grandin.
DeTerra 1: “I took several environmental science classes that touched on the beef industry and focused on the welfare of certain animals. I knew there were misconceptions in the public about cattle welfare, and so I decided to investigate this further in my documentary. I was mainly interested in improving my filmmaking skills, videography and editing by challenging myself with such a huge undertaking.” (20 seconds)
DeTerra’s film serves to analyze common misperceptions through conversations with beef farmers and ranchers, as well as industry experts. But along the way, he realized that he, too, was indeed the target audience with misconceptions of his own.
DeTerra 2: “I had no idea that my experiences on the ranches and feedlot would leave such a great impression on my life. I saw the industry up close and personal in a way that few people can understand. I realize that I, too, had several misconceptions about the industry such as the type of feed that cows are given or that the industry has a system of checks and balances to make sure ranches and feedlot operators perform correctly.” (23 seconds)
Food production has become one of the most publicized topics in this decade, yet many consumers don’t know where to find accurate information about the people who grow, cultivate and raise the food they eat. America’s cattle farmers and ranchers initiated the making of these films to provide consumers with a “behind-the-scenes” view of how beef gets from pasture to plate. Here’s what DeTerra hopes to accomplish with his film.
DeTerra 3: “The large majority of people that don’t get a chance to see the industry like I did, carry misconceptions and feelings that are not represented by the beef industry. The industry is largely misunderstood, and my hope is that you will see the industry in a different light after viewing my film. I hope that you will see the passion that each rancher and feedlot operator has for the industry. And I hope that you will understand their way of life.” (22 seconds)
The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.