A recent partnership between South Dakota beef producers and the New York Beef Industry Council (NYBIC) increased the understanding of beef and the beef industry among New York state consumers. The South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC) helped sponsor three farm tours in New York state, giving influencers, such as dietitians, chef instructors and food service and retail managers a face-to-face look at modern beef production. NYBIC Executive Director Carol Gillis believes the tours helped build relationships with the people who can influence public opinions about beef. Gillis said, "We realize there's a lot of misinformation out there, and we wanted these influencers to learn about science-based information regarding the beef industry."
On farms in three different regions of New York, participants were given an up-close look at how beef producers steward their animals and their land. Beef producers discussed and answered questions regarding feeding, animal care, food safety, and antibiotics with tour attendees. Gillis believes the influencers came to understand the best management practices that make beef production sustainable.
Gillis related comments from one chef instructor on the tour, as he realized that many people talking about beef have no connection to the farm or beef industry. The chef told Gillis he will be more inclined to believe facts put out by the beef industry before listening to rhetoric from activist groups.
New York is a beef deficit state with far more consumers than cattle. In fact, more than 19 million consumers live in the urban state. Gillis said the tours emphasized the networks that bring beef to a New York dinner table. "We stressed how important it is and how fortunate we are to have areas like South Dakota where they can produce beef very efficiently and how that makes it possible for all New York consumers to enjoy safe, wholesome beef," explained Gillis.
The SDBIC partnered with its New York counterpart to fund the tours during May "Beef Month." SDBIC President Merrill Karlen of Oacoma believes the New York partnership fits the mission of the South Dakota Beef Checkoff. "We've funded numerous Checkoff projects outside of South Dakota where the bulk of our consumers live. We have the cattle here and the coasts have the consumers. We get a lot bigger bang for our buck when we invest the Checkoff in the highly populated areas," explained Karlen.
The success of the New York farm tour project will become evident down the road, believes Gillis, as influencers spread their positive perceptions and first-hand knowledge of beef production to consumers across New York.