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Missouri cattlemen need to tell their own story

By Doug Rich

Speaking at the Missouri Cattlemen's Association convention on Dec. 12 in Columbia, Mo., Daren Williams, executive director of communications at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said it is his job to help cattlemen tell their story about how they raise beef today. Getting this story out to consumers who want to know more about how their food is produced is very important.

"Consumers have a lot of questions about their food today and I think more and more it is important for us to be the ones to get out and answer those questions; otherwise they will get misinformation from other sources," Williams said.

The need to tell their story was made very clear to Missouri cattlemen with the publication of a series of articles recently in the Kansas City Star entitled "Beef's Raw Edges." Mike McGraw, who wrote the article, contacted NCBA nearly a year ago to learn more about the beef industry. McGraw told Williams that the editors at the Kansas City Star decided they had not been doing a very good job of covering agriculture and they realized that the beef industry was very important the Kansas City.

"After reading this series I can say that the Kansas City Star has still not done a good job of covering agriculture and they missed the story about beef being important to Kansas City," Williams said.

Williams said he was not angry about the article, just disappointed in the opportunity they missed to tell the story about modern beef production. Kansas City is not the cow town that it once was when the west bottoms were full of cattle but a modern beef town. Kansas City is a town on the leading edge of beef production and a vital part of the animal health corridor that stretches from Columbia, Mo., to Manhattan, Kan.

"That is an important story but it is unfortunate that story did not make it into the Kansas City Star," Williams said. "But the Kansas City Star decided instead to tell the story of 'Big Beef.'"

When it comes to talking to consumers, they equate big with bad. Williams said the article did address serious issues such as beef safety. Specifically, one part of the three part series questioned the safety of mechanically tenderized beef products. Even through cattlemen have invested millions of dollars through the beef checkoff to improve the safety of the beef supply, the Kansas City Star chose to focus on the negatives, Williams said.

The article also examined checkoff-funded nutrition research that was used to develop the Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD). This peer-reviewed research showed that lean beef could be part of a heart health diet.

"The story in the Kansas City Star made it sound like funding research like that with your checkoff dollars was some nefarious plot to push beef on Americans," Williams said.

Williams said this is one of the reasons we developed the Masters of Beef Advocacy Program, to take the story of beef production directly to the consumer without the filter of big media.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at richhpj@aol.com.

Date: 12/24/2012



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