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Beef Up Your Classroom Visits

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Use these educational resources to debunk industry myths, respond to negative media articles and educate kids in the classroom.

The Kansas City Star recently published an article called, “Beef’s Raw Edges,” which criticizes the cattle industry for everything from antibiotic overuse to increased E. coli risks. While this article is just one of many that portray cattle ranchers as villains, I would urge consumers to find their information elsewhere.

Aside from the sensational way articles like the Kansas City Star example are written, they don’t dig deep enough or work to actually provide the facts about where our food comes from. Instead, they use consumer fear and hysteria to create a buzz and sell papers.

I would encourage folks to check out ExploreBeef.org or FactsAboutBeef.com to learn more about how beef gets from pasture to plate.

Another great resource is WhereFoodComesFrom.com, a great website dedicated to sharing the food-production story with consumers, while answering common questions and concerns.

One article you’ll find there is titled, “Everything A Kid (And Mom) Should Know About Beef Cattle.” It starts with a quick quiz and then gives fun facts about the beef industry. For example, did you know India has the largest cattle inventory in the world, followed by Brazil and China? Did you know that the U.S. is the largest importer of beef, followed by Russia and Japan? Did you know there are over 800 breeds of cattle? Or that the U.S. is the largest consumer of beef (by volume) in the world?

These fun facts and more could be educational tools to use when going to classrooms and talking about beef. The quiz would make a great activity for the students, followed by reading an agriculturally-accurate book and talking about what life is like on a ranch for you.

Creating a well-rounded classroom talk has been on my mind lately because the South Dakota Ag In The Classroom project has selected my children’s book, “Levi’s Lost Calf,” as its book to use in schools this year; I think the information found on the resources listed above would be the perfect complement to the story.

Forget scare tactics and negative media articles, the beef industry has a positive story to tell, and it’s time we get out and do just that. Do you carve out some time to visit schools? If so, what are some of your best tips and tricks for leaving a good impression?

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Dec 26, 2012

Superb post, Amanda. Sharing the beef/food story with students is challenging but fun and rewarding. Producers who take up this challenge should be prepared, completely honest, and not afraid to say "I don't know, but I'll find out and get you the answer." Kids may lack experience, but they are just as smart as you are.

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Dec 26, 2012

Another fine resource, which I'm pretty sure you've mentioned before, is http://www.meatmythcrushers.com/

on Dec 26, 2012

If anyone gets the chance to watch Gary Sides presentation on promoting beef in the face book world, do so. He presents a ton of facts and the figures to back them up. He is part of the Pfizer cattleman's college.
We recently had him here at the Montana Stockgrowers convention in Billings.

on Dec 27, 2012

I have a few things to say about this, and I hope people here will read my comments with an open mind.

First, in another lifetime long long ago and far far away (30 years to be exact), I was a reporter for the Kansas City Star. I knew Mike McGraw, who wrote the series on beef. I recall him as a careful, old-school journalist, and I think his beef article reflects that.

Second, more and more consumers are able to separate the raising of cattle from the processing of cattle, and even the pasturing from the feedlot. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that the growth hormones and antibiotics happen at the feedlot stage, and that mechanical tenderization and "pink slime" happen during processing.

Therefore, given what I understand (and have been told by ranchers), I find it logical to have very high regard for the hard working ranchers who raise the beef I eat, while being considerably less enamored with what happens after that.

I do realize that cost reduction is a big motive behind a lot of what happens, but then so is profit maximization. All or just about all of which would seem to accrue long after the cattle leave the ranch. Therefore, I don't feel too bad about being skeptical of feedlots and processing, given that they (especially processing) are completely separate from the ranchers.

As a beef-loving American, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to buy mine directly from the pasture and contract small butcher, skipping the feedlot and commercial big slaughterhouses and processors.

I've never trusted those "casual dining" joints with their cheap steaks, and I avoid fast food outlets like the plague. I appreciate it that the Kansas City Star (pardon the pun) fleshed out the story and allowed me to understand why my instincts were correct. As an urban consumer, I am all for the farmer. More than you know. To me, it's the middle man who's the greedy pest. Always was, always will be.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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