Emphasis on sustainability means that we cattle ranchers and farmers are now challenged to help the average consumer connect to our lifestyle and the sustainable practices we use to produce great-tasting, high-quality beef.
Recently, our family rode through our ranch on horseback. Our land is in Walker and Madison counties, which are right on the line between East and Central Texas. Here, the horses are a lot more useful than a truck — which won’t make it through the creeks — and just a lot more pleasant than an ATV. As you may know from your own experiences, riding the country on horseback lends itself to great conversations and ample opportunities for contemplation.
And that’s exactly what we did. In our little family, we can all talk — a lot — but on this special weekend, we did a lot of listening, too. To stories about our family, the places, the pastures and their names and memorable events along the way. Our son is 17 years old, and it’s vital for him to hear these tales over and over so he can one day sustain the traditions of ranching heritage and oral history.
I’ve chosen the word “sustain” purposefully. “Sustainability” is certainly a word we all hear quite a bit these days, often in the context of agriculture and cattle production. I’m proud to be an agriculturist, and I’m deeply proud to be a rancher. Our land has been in our family for generations, and we care for it as if it will be in our family for many, many generations to come. It’s certainly not easy, and as you know, there are no quick wins in ranching. To endure, you must sustain.
This emphasis on sustainability means that we cattle ranchers and farmers are now challenged to help the average consumer connect to our lifestyle and the sustainable practices we use to produce great-tasting, high-quality beef. People raised to be humble have to extol their virtuous behavior to prove their product is good for people and good for the planet. People raised to mind their own business are expected to share their business openly.
I’ve thought, as I’m sure many of you have, that we shouldn’t have to explain or justify how we manage our land and care for our livestock. However, the truth is that many consumers don’t fully understand the ranching and agricultural lifestyle.
Every day, consumers make decisions about how to feed their families and themselves — decisions that involve multiple considerations like nutrition, taste, affordability and ease of preparation. Every day, we have the opportunity to tell them how great-tasting, nutritious beef fits into their lifestyles and supports their beliefs. And, every day, it’s our responsibility to help consumers feel good about choosing beef by sharing our passion for our land and our livestock.
As we nurture our land and livestock, we must also nurture our stories and how we tell them. If we don’t tell them how hard we work, not only as cattle producers, but also as environmental stewards, we allow a false narrative to take over. That narrative results in misperceptions at best, and consumers avoiding our product or believing it’s harmful at worst. When consumers understand what we do and how we do it, they’re more likely to believe this as well.
More than 35 years of checkoff-funded research, innovation, beef production improvements and educational advancements have provided our industry with a wealth of knowledge to back up our belief that beef is good for our families and good for our planet. Sharing scientific facts about beef’s healthful attributes or providing creative ways to use beef to feed and satisfy a family are just two of the many ways checkoff-funded programs work to help us sustain our livelihoods and heritage.
When the Texas Beef Council wisely invests in beef science, communications, promotion and education, the entire beef production system benefits. Those investments pay us back with a rich repository of factual information and positive messages that we can use to support our way of life. As a beef producer, your checkoff support ensures we can continue to invest in these very important activities and initiatives that will pave the way for future generations.
It’s one more way that you’re helping sustain our industry and this livelihood that we all treasure so much. I thank each of you personally for what you do and your love for farming and ranching, and I hope that you’ll continue to share your stories — not just with your loved ones, but also with those who want to learn why choosing beef is a sustainable, nutritious decision.
Molly McAdams is the Executive Vice President of the Texas Beef Council