John Nalivka: Consumer Input Into Your Cattle

Consumers care about your management ( UNL )

I have addressed several cattlemen’s meetings this year and while I have presented my analysis and thoughts on the market outlook, I have also discussed what I consider to be key issues or trends that will likely define the industry going forward. 

I say discuss because, my objective is always to generate discussion.  I think the value is, more often than not, in the discussion.  Your viewpoint as cattlemen will obviously play a role in your future production decisions.   Your comments are considered in my analysis and market outlook. 

I mentioned trends that are becoming increasingly important as we assess the industry into the future.  Obviously, trade is one of those as the global market for beef has grown and continues to grow.  But, closely associated with meeting global demand and U.S. consumer demand is the growing desire of consumers to have input in how livestock are raised – use of growth promotants, animal welfare, sustainable use of resources to raise cattle, just to name the ones on the top of my list. 

Agree or disagree with that premise, I do think it is reality going forward.  So, how do you respond?   Do you respond that it is really no one’s business how I run my ranch, or do you say, just tell me what I need to change and I will do it to keep everyone off my back?

I don’t think the answer is either one of those, but rather lies somewhere in between and begins with you the rancher educating consumers about your business and how it works.  For those of you who have ranched and raised cattle for generations, it probably seems rather straightforward.  But, for someone who has never been near a ranch or cattle operation, it isn’t that simple. 

You cannot assume they should know, understand, and appreciate how all of those activities and decisions that go into raising cattle and result in the final beef product that they buy in the supermarket or order at the restaurant.   You might be surprised at how many of those consumers will honestly appreciate your life on the ranch and how you raise cattle and produce wholesome beef if you take the time to visit with them and even have visitors out to the ranch. 

This might start with a class from the local school.  The more the industry works toward educating consumers at any age, the greater the chance to replace emotion with knowledge and experience.

The U.S. is the most efficient, sustainable producer of food in the world.  The result is an abundant availability of food at a relatively low cost to Americans as well global populations.  Imposing unwarranted restraints on how food is produced will raise the costs.   Take the time to tell your story and educate Americans about the role you play in producing beef through sound resource use. 

Related stories:

John Nalivka: The Beef Industry's Future