Masters of Beef Advocacy Important for agricultural producers
May 14, 2012
Every day, cattlemen and cattlewomen from across the country work hard to produce a safe, nutritious product. However, consumers aren’t always aware of this, and may not know how the streak on their plate got there.
“An increasing number of our consuming public is disconnected with those that provide food on our tables. Americans want to know more about their food and it is our responsibility to be that voice before someone else fills the void of information and education,” said Travis Hoffman, Colorado Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator at Colorado State University.
One way that producers can get training is through the Master’s of Beef Advocacy program, which is provided by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. This program is designed to teach producers about modern beef production, as well as teaching them about how they can help to be an advocate for their own industry, and to tell their individual stories.
“The MBA program provides an opportunity for cattle enthusiasts to learn about modern beef production and understand talking points to more effectively tell the Beef story. The most important result of this program is empowering cattle producers as voices for our beef community. It builds confidence to promote the lifestyle that we so passionately love: raising beef,” said Hoffman.
The program was developed in 2009. Since that time, more than 3,200 people have graduated from 48 states, Canada, Mexico and abroad. Currently, 109 people have graduated from the program in Colorado, and 37 in Wyoming.
“The program began with a modest goal of training and graduating 50 farmers and ranchers in the first year. We had more than 1,000. We upped our goal to 500 in the second year wondering if we could maintain the momentum. We had another 1,000 graduates that year,” said Daniel Sullivan, Director, Alumni Relations, Masters of Beef Advocacy for NCBA.
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The interest in the program shows that farmers and ranchers wanted to be involved in telling their stories. “The Masters of Beef Advocacy program was created as a natural progression from the beef community’s spokesperson development program. Farmers and ranchers saw the need and value in creating a grassroots network across the country to share the positive story of agriculture,” said Sullivan.
The program has grown exponentially in the last few years, and the total number of graduates each year increases. “The MBA program relies heavily on word-of-mouth marketing from current graduates encouraging their fellow farmers and ranchers to join the program. The MBA program has also been integrated into agricultural curriculums at many universities. In addition state beef councils, articles in news outlets and in newsletters also contribute to awareness about the program. Thanks to the investment of farmers and ranchers into the Beef Check-off, there is no cost to participate,” said Sullivan.
The MBA program, funded by Check-off dollars through NCBA, is broken down into six courses, including:
• Modern Beef Production – sharing the many benefits of modern, efficient U.S. beef production.
• Animal Care – explaining producers commitment to raising healthy animals.
• Beef Safety – communicating why producing safe food for consumers is a top priority.
• Beef Nutrition – explaining how great-tasting beef strengthens and sustains our bodies.
• Environmental Stewardship – sharing how producers are protecting the environment for future generations
• The Beef Checkoff – communicating the value of cattlemen’s investment in growing demand for beef.
The program is entirely online and self-paced, and free for any producer. The program takes about six hours to complete. Sullivan said, “The program is designed to equip farmers and ranchers with the latest research and information to be effective advocates for the beef industry.”
“The MBA program is important to the beef community as a tool to help educate, engage and empower farmers and ranchers to raise their voices for agriculture. Consumers love beef. They love the sizzle of a steak on the grill and biting into a thick, juicy burger. But they have questions about how beef gets from pasture to plate. Where does beef come from? Is it safe? Is proper care given to animals and the environment?” said Sullivan.
He continued, “Farmers and ranchers have a great story to tell. We work hard every day to be good stewards of the land and our animals in providing safe and nutritious beef for America’s dinner tables. We need to be passionate and vocal in telling our story. That’s what the Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program is about … equipping beef producers across the country to tell their story in presentations to schools and church/civic groups, through local media and in the online world.”
Once the courses are completed, candidates will be invited to attend a commencement training session, where they will learn more about online advocacy, one-on-one conversations with consumers and how to work with the media. This information can then be used to educate family and friends, as well as community members and school children.
“The most important part of the program is the farmers and ranchers who make up the grassroots network and their advocacy efforts after graduating from the program. The MBA program has graduates from all walks of life including farmers and ranchers, students, chefs, teachers, dieticians, doctors and business people that make up the diverse beef community. The program is flexible and scalable allowing each farmer and rancher to make the program meaningful to them. Following the training modules, farmers and ranchers are invited to join an Alumni Association website where they can network with other farmers and ranchers across the country, receive the most current research and materials and learn of new engagement opportunities,” said Sullivan.
Cattlemen face an interesting time, where many people are disconnected from agriculture. “Ninety-eight percent of people today have little or no connection to agriculture and so consumers are increasingly curious about how their food is grown and raised. It’s important to open a dialogue between farmers and ranchers and consumer so that they get the correct information from the people responsible for feeding this country,” he said.
Another issue producers face is with public perception. Each time a video is released from an animal rights organization, consumers panic and may believe that all producers treat their animals poorly. “No one knows more about what is accomplished on a daily basis than American farmers and ranchers. Pro-active messages including our care and stewardship of animals and the land is imperative and a key to continuing to build consumer trust of beef,” said Hoffman.
He continued, “Education is key. Current ignorance and disconnect from the food supply chain has created a chance for us all to connect with the American public that enjoys beef in a healthy diet.”
To combat this, producers need to work on telling their own stories, so that someone else doesn’t do it for them. “We are all thankful to be in a lifestyle that is truthfully very rewarding. Every voice is influential to tell our story in our daily routine. Whether the audience is friends, family, or neighbors being equipped with talking points that show personal commitment to cattle and land lead to a greater understanding of cattle and beef production,” said Hoffman.