She almost left the cattle industry for what she thought might be greener digs and better gigs. But, after Sarah Bradbury became involved with the National Beef Ambassador competition, she not only decided to find her own niche in the cattle business, she's worked to bring others into the beef fold.

The 19-year-old from Huntsville, TX, and sophomore at Trinity University in San Antonio has just completed a year as a National Beef Ambassador.

Leading her team of four other Beef Ambassadors, Bradbury helped chalk up more than 100,000 contacts with consumers and peer youth. Add to that 2.6 million media impressions — via radio, television and print — and the total equals nothing but good for American beef producers.

Spreading the good word

“Before I became involved in the Beef Ambassador competition I really wasn't thinking about a career in agriculture,” Bradbury says. “But, having the opportunity to travel and see what's going on around me in the beef business, I'm convinced this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

While preparing for this speaking competition, youth learn about the importance of the beef industry and beef as an agricultural product, says Carol Abrahamzon, Caledonia, MN. She's American National CattleWomen program chair for the Beef Ambassador competition.

“The program spotlights the positive impact the cattle industry has on our economy and families,” Abrahamzon says. She works closely throughout the year with the ambassadors, helping further train them to address industry issues and dispel misconceptions about the cattle business throughout all links in the beef chain.

“One of the ambassadors' major goals is to educate peers, consumers and producers about food safety and nutrition as they travel to events and present programs around the country,” she explains. Nearly 80% of the beef ambassadors' contacts and media impressions target non-agriculture audiences.

“The real clincher to this program is how these youth ambassadors interact on a one-on-one basis with peers and consumers,” she says. “People really trust them and recognize the passion they have for this industry — and they understand the ambassadors are not promoting any hidden agenda or vested interest.”

Training is key

“You never quite know what you're going to face when you go before a group or when you're approached by someone,” Abrahamzon says of the ambassadors. “Therefore, they must be prepared for about any question or comment that might come up. Also, we know they can't get by on rhetoric; rather we need to use facts and science-based analysis when making points and addressing questions.”

The $82,000 in checkoff money dedicated to the Beef Ambassador program annually leverages significant outside resources including a major grant provided by Shared SolutionsSM Agricultural Initiative of the Altria family of companies. This grant picks up the travel tab for national winners.

But, the impact of the Beef Ambassador program is not just felt externally. A recent survey of past Beef Ambassador participants shows nearly 80% of all who reach national-level competition choose to pursue careers in the cattle industry or remain involved in the beef business.