A Few Thoughts – The task at hand – creating another audit or telling your story?
I am firm believer in producing what the consumer wants to buy – producing for the market. Over the past several years, the protocols associated with these consumer “wants” have increased and we see more packages of beef products with the claims associated with various branded programs, i.e. source verified, natural, organic, humanely handled, no antibiotics, or breed specific. I am sure there are more. For the producer these programs have been financially rewarding, but they also require audits, some rigorous such as the GAP (Global Animal Partnership) and some not so rigorous.
One more program hit the industry headlines this week when Tyson Foods announced that they will be licensing the Progressive Beef Program, a cattle management and sustainability program for feedlots. These programs all require audits and the Progressive Beef Program is no different. It has both an internal audit as well as a USDA approved third-party audit. As indicated in their announcement, this decision was associated with consumers increasingly wanting to know “where their food comes from.”
Haven’t we been doing this for the last 15 years when source verification became a requirement for export?!
So what is the task at hand? I would strongly submit that the vast majority of consumers want a consistent, quality product that represents value at their dinner table or in the restaurant. Does that require audit upon audit upon audit to achieve? For some consumers, I am sure it does, but I don’t think these folks are even close to representing the majority. They likely buy from a reputable, branded beef program and they ask questions.
The industry challenge is not to create one more program with one more USDA audit as we have done for the last 15 years, but rather to unrelentingly tell the story of how everyone up and down the supply chain from the cow-calf producer to the packer produces quality beef that is affordable, nutritious, and presents value
One more thought – for ranchers in the Western U.S., you already produce “branded” beef. Think about that when you brand your calves in the spring. Market your success and sustainable business by telling your story rather than paying an auditor to visit the ranch for a couple of hours every year!
Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Sept. 24, 2022, edition of Tri-State Livestock News