My natural beef is better than your conventional beef!
Over the past several years, I have read many articles about ranchers who are raising natural cattle for various programs. These programs have come a long way since 1986 when I first sat down and visited with Doc and Connie Hatfield in Brothers, Oregon when their creation, Country Natural Beef, was still in its early development (it began in 1984). Media attention has obviously increased as the number of branded beef and certified beef programs have increased. This is good public relations for the entire beef supply chain.
As programs have increased, the market has become increasingly segmented with branded and USDA certified program cattle. And of course, as might be expected, there are more “get to the source” stories in the media with ranchers telling their story. These stories are good for ranching and the beef industry. There is often the story about raising natural or organic cattle without the use of hormones and antibiotics. These attributes are obviously important to some consumers. The growth in that category is strong evidence. However, even with that growth in natural and organic, the vast majority of beef produced in the U.S. still falls under the heading of “conventional beef.”
So, as with most things there is a downside to the media attention and telling your story and I throw the caution flag. Be careful with those rather off-hand comments about your ranching operation and how you raise cattle. I see quotes from ranchers telling how they raise natural cattle. They are telling the story and the writer is totally enthralled with their story. It’s a great story and you are doing a good job educating the average consumer about what you do. Then in the midst of getting caught up in telling this great story, the well-intentioned rancher alludes to how much better the natural beef they are raising is than the “conventionally raised” beef on the market.
Marketing is about telling the consumer why to buy product X rather than product Y. But negative comments about the competition or in this case, the majority of the industry are not necessarily a good marketing strategy. Impress others with what you do and why. Don’t leave the impression the other is bad. While you are an important part of the natural beef category, don’t disparage the largest share of the market. There are plenty of activists to bad mouth the entire beef industry. Good public relations is going down the same path together producing a safe, quality product that consumers know and want to buy.