Masters of Beef Advocacy Program Adds Value to Graduates
In the 13 years since its inception, the Beef Checkoff-funded Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program has continued to advance, reaching an expanding number of beef advocates. This free, self-guided online course provides farmers, ranchers, service providers, consumers and all beef community members with the tools and resources they need to become beef advocates and answer tough questions about beef production.
In January, the program hit 20,000 graduates. This is an exciting accomplishment for the program, and shows consumers and cattle producers alike want to learn more and share their stories.
Joan Ruskamp, Nebraska beef producer and past Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) chair, received her MBA certification in 2009, making her one of the first to graduate. Ruskamp remembers the state of the industry at that time and the tools MBA gave her to combat misconceptions about beef production – and a platform on which to do so.
“There started to be a collective voice out there condemning what producers were doing on their operations. For the longest time, farmers were trusted, and now, suddenly we weren’t being trusted anymore,” she said. “Consumers didn’t know the beef story, and since I was out there living it, I felt the need to share my story – I just wasn’t sure how.”
The MBA program gave Ruskamp the resources to successfully share her beef story. “We as beef producers know our segment of production very well. It can be easy for us to make assumptions about other segments involved in getting cattle to become beef,” Ruskamp said. “The MBA process helps you understand the historical context surrounding the U.S. beef industry’s evolution. It’s encompassing of the whole beef story.”
MBA participants study everything from environmental sustainability, beef nutrition, animal welfare and beef safety while also learning about the beef lifecycle, from pasture to plate. They also gain strategies designed to help them effectively communicate and connect with others to increase trust in beef production.
Ruskamp has used her MBA skills in multiple consumer-facing interviews and panels throughout the years. She thanks the MBA team for the invaluable media training they provided. “For most producers, talking to the media is not in our day-to-day, so understanding how to give a good interview is so important,” Ruskamp said. “I remember a lot of excitement and producers willing to step out of their comfort zones and try an interview, all because of their passion for cattle.”
She has also applied her expertise to engage countless visitors from around the world after they traveled to her cattle operation. Groups from Jordan, Israel, the Caribbean and more listened to Ruskamp’s beef story as they toured her feedlot.
Every advocate that passes through the MBA program’s doors travels a different path following their certification. Some use social media and blogging to reach new consumer audiences. Others use their certification as an educational and professional development tool.
For Taylor Belle Matheny, director of communications and digital content at the American Hereford Association, the MBA program was an opportunity to grow as a young professional and become a reliable source for all things beef production.
“Growing up on my family’s Hereford operation, I’ve always had deep roots in the cattle industry and a passion for sharing our story,” Matheny said. “This certification adds value, not only to consumers, but to industry peers, and it demonstrates to others how you are a credible representative for the beef industry.”
Matheny completed her MBA certification in 2015 as a freshman in animal sciences and industry at Kansas State University. “In college, I wanted to do everything possible to get involved, further my education in the beef industry and set myself up for success post-graduation,” she said. “MBA was the perfect opportunity to advance my knowledge and connect with other beef advocates. It’s a great program, and I encourage all producers to get involved.”
The MBA program is always finding new ways to grow and expand its offerings to participants. In 2021, the program launched NextGen, an updated training module that split the course into five online lessons:
- The Beef Community – Context of raising beef from pasture to plate with a focus on the community of people involved throughout the beef lifecycle.
- Raising Cattle on Grass – An introduction to the first step in the beef lifecycle and the many benefits of raising cattle on our country’s vast grass pasture resources.
- Life in the Feedyard – A discussion on the role of feedyards, including animal care, nutrition and environmental stewardship, at this important step in the beef lifecycle.
- From Cattle to Beef – An in-depth look at the slaughter process and the humane handling and safety measures in place at today’s beef processing facilities.
- Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. – A primer on choosing and cooking the right cuts of beef and the important role of beef in a healthful diet.
The updated training modules make it easy for a new generation of farmers and ranchers to learn about the beef industry and communicate their beef stories. To learn more about the MBA program and to get certified, visit: https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/masters-of-beef-advocacy
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 may 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.