Buckmaster Outlines How Cattle Producers Can Help With Issues, Upcoming Activities and ProgramsFri, 06 Apr 2012 13:44:01 CDT
In a recent conversation with Ron Hays, Heather Buckmaster of the Oklahoma Beef Council spoke about several issues and activities that are of immediate concern to cattle producers. Chief among those due to its negative effects on the industry is the continued flap over lean finely textured beef. Buckmaster says they are aggressively addressing that concern, but aren't losing sight of other programs and positive promotions coming up this spring.
She says the LFTB problem probably won't go away soon, but persistent efforts at educating the public and key constituencies is the cornerstone of current efforts.
"I've been working for the beef industry for 15 years now and it's been the toughest issue I've seen to deal with, but part of our core efforts has been to educate those key influencers to provide them science-based, accurate information on the process. Specifically from a local level we've distributed information to school nutrition directors, to school administrators, retail food and trade service associations as well as reaching out to key opinion leaders for their third-party engagement on the process."
She says that everyone in the beef industry can play a part in educating the public even if it's nothing more than getting on Facebook and Twitter and encouraging people to go to beefisbeef.com.
"It's a great website. It's BPI's website, but they've done a great job of putting good information together."
Buckmaster says the LFTB controversy has brought together some industries and groups one doesn't normally think of as working together.
"I think what's been interesting when we watch this process is the fact that I've seen some major food safety activist groups that, normally it feels like we're not really on the same page, but that have actually come out in favor of this process because of the fact it makes a safer beef product."
One of the things that seems to have caught beef producers off guard was the speed with which giant beef consumers and marketers jumped off the bandwagon and changed their products or distanced themselves from their competitors who use LFTB.
"I know that there was, specifically Wendy's, there was quite a bit of engagement with them and trying to convince them that this was not a long term approach to take. They did some specific advertising across the United States. In a sense, I don't blame them. I'm thinking about my industry, they're thinking about their customer. And I wish that they hadn't. I like what HyVee did which was that 'We're going to back off and give consumers a choice. Let them vote at the meat case.'"
Buckmaster said that approach seems to make far more sense because, as time goes on, consumers will see a difference if LFTB is ejected from the marketplace by large retailers and fast food restaurants.
"I do not see that there's any way we're not going to see higher prices at the meat case, specifically for ground beef. We do not produce enough lean in this country to supply our needs."
Even though the major battles over LFTB seem to be taking place on a national stage, Buckmaster says beef producers can have a tremendous impact working locally.
"First of all, if there's a story that comes up in local newspapers we'd encourage them to write a letter to the editor and encourage them to provide the science-based, accurate information. They can go to beefisbeef.comthere's a great fact sheet from USDA on this process. We would encourage them to Facebook beefisbeef.com to provide that information out.
"I'd also encourage them to talk to their school administrators, provide them with great information. I'd be glad to provide it to them to help them educate their school administrators on this process."
As the LFTB issue continues to simmer on the back burner, cattle producers will still be doing what they do best-producing high quality, high value products. Buckmaster says the Beef Council will be continuing its efforts to assist producers in their work with a series of "Back to Basics" Field Meetings beginning later this month.
"We want to help producers identify ways they can increase their bottom lines by implementing some good, basic beef quality assurance practices. It will be a very hands-on program. We are holding them in livestock markets so they will be very convenient to cattle producers."
She says the field days are being held in new areas this year to encourage those who may not have come before to take advantage of the program. This spring's field days will be held in Pawnee, Hobart, Cherokee, Ada and Texhoma. Information is available by clicking here.
The field days will include presentations on beef quality assurance, injections/castration/dentition, her nutrition, record keeping, and a market owner's perspective. Buckmaster says the events are very much "hands on." She said participants will be served lunch and will be entered into a drawing for a new Priefert chute.
Buckmaster says there are a couple of promotions the Beef Council is sponsoring to get more people thinking about the positive aspects of beef.
"We're going to be a major sponsor of the Red Bud Classic which is the largest 10K in Oklahoma. We find these kinds of opportunities to reach out to what we call our food- and health-involved consumer, people who are really thinking about their health. People who other consumers talk to and say 'What are you doing to be healthy?' We're going to be reaching out to them through the Redbud Classic.
"We are also going to be participating in the Oklahoma Memorial Expo which attracts between 20- to 25,000 runners and walkers to the event. So we can help provide them with good information.
"In June-we're very excited about this-we're going to have Dr. Michael Roussell. He's one of the key researchers on the BOLD Project, which is the Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet that showed that lean beef could be a part of a heart-healthy diet and still lower cholesterol. He's going to be speaking at the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians. We're excited about that. He's a writer for Shape Magazine and other men's health and men's fitness magazines."
Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear Ron Hays' full interview with Heather Buckmaster.
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