Safeguarding the Beef Industry, Quashing Myths
As cattle producers, you know it’s frustrating, at best, to read or hear headlines and stories about the cattle industry in mainstream media that you know are not accurate.
In most cases, your firsthand stories are extremely helpful and effective in getting the true story out to consumers, because consumers generally trust producers and want firsthand information. But it’s not enough on its own. Today’s consumers have more questions about how beef is raised – from farm to fork – than ever before, and they demand scientific proof to answer their questions about things like nutrition and environmental effects of ranching.
You can respond in letters, social media, or face-to-face, and tell folks how YOU care for your animals and the environment. But how do you prove that you are not the exception in doing so?
Thanks to your dollar-per-head investments into your Beef Checkoff Program, all the tools are in place to safeguard you and the beef industry from misinformation, misperceptions, crises, and constant attacks and emotional rhetoric from misinformed sources or anti-meat individuals and groups – including myth-busters for misinformation such as “Undercover videos show abuse and are representative of the entire beef industry” or “Cows cause global warming.”
In addition to sharing accurate information constantly through www.factsaboutbeef, your checkoff works on a daily basis to help consumers understand how you raise your beef and uses the truth to shut down vast amounts of misinformation before it ever reaches the public. And if it can’t be headed off in advance, your checkoff is at the ready to respond with facts and science when myths are purported. You might hear it called “reputation management” or something of the like, and there’s a lot more strategy and engagement to it than most folks could imagine.
“Our role is really protecting and preserving consumer confidence in and consumer demand for beef,” said Season Solorio, who directs the checkoff’s issues and reputation management program. “Ultimately, we know that sometimes when issues pop up, and consumers not being as involved with what happens on farms and ranches every day, they may look at that and say ‘Maybe I am going to limit my beef demand today or this week or this month,’ and that's the last thing that we want. Ultimately, what we're really trying to do is make sure that, No. 1, consumers never hear about those issues that would be our ultimate goal and, No. 2, if they do hear about those issues that they have the other side of the story and that they understand that that headline -- that 140-character soundbite on Twitter that they read – might not be the entire story.”
The checkoff’s market-research efforts are a critical part of the checkoff’s safeguarding strategy. That research helps us understand what issues are on consumers’ minds and combines with a tremendous amount of digital and social ‘listening’ and tracking to understand, real-time, what consumers are talking about when beef issues – or misinformation – arise and, ultimately, answer the questions that they have.
Protection from threats like these is a key component of long-term success of the beef industry – especially considering consumers’ growing demands for transparency of cattle and beef production practices, impacts, and responsiveness to their values and needs. They want the truth that makes them comfortable with every step of the process – not to mention the final product – if they are to continue or increase their beef purchases, and that’s what the checkoff provides.