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Perception is Real

Written by Dennis Sun
      When it comes to raising livestock everything is pretty much black and white. Or, is that black and red? It depends on how your sense of humor, or your pocketbook, is looking at the moment.
        When I claim the last couple of weeks, given all of the wind and snow, have been tough on livestock and producers, I don’t hear much argument. Day or night, there isn’t much romance in digging a calf out of a snow bank. Perception becomes reality when that calf turned yearling or cow is processed, packaged and destined for the meat case at the grocery store. In years past no one really knew, nor seemed to care, what breed it was, where it was raised or where it was harvested. It’s a changing scenario.
    Most anything we buy these days carries a label of its origin. Whether it’s toys from China, cars from Japan or paper from Canada, consumers want more information. We have choices – what to buy, where it came from and how much we’re willing to pay.
    America’s consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they purchase and what they purchase. If they hear something time and time again, they perceive it to be true. Maybe they trust a certain store brand or product line. Some choose Fords stating they’re the best. Others choose a Chevy or Dodge, meanwhile making the same claim. Companies like Wal-Mart have convinced consumers they only sell the best products at the best prices. It’s been said so many times that the questions fade into the background. I don’t have anything against Wal-Mart or Ford, but society seems to believe most anything they see or hear these days.
    American products have to fight for their position in today’s marketplace. That’s equally true for American beef and lamb. Implementation of COOL helps us take our quest for shelf space beyond price. We can be proud of what we raise, but in doing so we must ensure we’re sending the best product possible to market. When American consumers realized the hamburger in the packages they were buying came from two or three countries, COOL was an easy sell, but there’s more work to be done.
    As I said last week, there are groups out there stating red meat will shorten your lifespan. If I lived on lettuce, vitamins and herbs, my life would be shortened, too. It would just feel like I lived to be 100.
    During times, and discussions, like these, it’s good to know we have the lamb and beef checkoffs in place. They’re a great tool for combating irresponsible messages that lack fact or are biased. The Beef Checkoff program recently initiated a Masters in Beef Advocacy program. This free online training is designed to equip beef producers and industry allies with information they need to be everyday advocates for the beef industry. If you can come up with a few spare moments, take advantage of that program and support the checkoffs. We all need to be out there telling the public the truth.
    We don’t have to look any further than the horse situation to understand why. Just look what happened when the American public was told it’s wrong to harvest horses – they dug in their pockets, donated money and changed American policy for the worst.
Dennis