Sustainability and public perception discussions kick off NCBA’s annual convention

Beef producers and industry representatives from across North America converge on San Antonio for the biggest conference in the business.

Everybody once wanted to be a cowboy, so why doesn’t the public seem to connect that heroic figure with modern beef production?

This was the question posed by Wayne Morgan, president of protein products and sustainability for Golden State Foods, during one of the first sessions on Wednesday at the Cattle Industry Conference and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Trade Show in San Antonio, Texas. Morgan discussed the importance of the public perception of the beef industry, challenging attendees of the popular NCBA Cattlemen’s College to consider how they can effectively communicate facts about beef production to consumers.

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“People no longer view the cowboy as somebody out there protecting the land and taking care of the animals. They think of some kind of corporate farm or big machine that’s making all the food that they (eat). They’ve forgotten or they don’t realize that it’s families — it’s individual cattlemen and cattlewomen out there doing this job every day that serves the food up on their plate,” said Morgan. “How do we bring them back into the fold and let them realize the great things that are being done there?”

Like many food service companies throughout North America, Golden State Foods is facing numerous questions about sustainability from its customers. The topic is being discussed more frequently in all sectors of agriculture, and it’s not something to take lightly, Morgan said. If sustainability is important to your clients, it must be on your radar.

“We all answer to our customers, and if you don’t believe it you’ll watch your customers leave,” he said. “They will find somebody who’ll answer for them, whether it’s a competing protein of pork or poultry, or it’s plant-based proteins. People will find someone who’ll listen to them.”

Sharing the facts on sustainable beef production was just one of the many topics covered in this year’s Cattlemen’s College. This has been part of the association’s annual convention for more than 25 years, featuring industry leaders speaking on topics of interest to beef producers. Cattlemen’s College began on Tuesday afternoon with in vitro fertilization demonstrations and sessions on a variety of beef production topics. Wednesday morning featured a range of sessions related to business practices, breeding management, animal health, genetic selection, nutrition and grazing management and consumer engagement and demand.

The opening general session on Wednesday afternoon featured U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in conversation with NCBA President Jennifer Houston on recent U.S. trade deals, rising to current challenges facing agriculture and better promoting the productivity and sustainability of raising cattle. This was followed by a keynote speech from Captain Scott Kelly, an American astronaut who spent a year on the International Space Station.

Established in 1898, NCBA has more than 25,000 individual members and represents more than 175,000 U.S. cattle producers through its affiliates. The 2020 edition of the Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show is estimated to be one of its largest to date, with more than 9,000 producers and delegates in attendance.

About the author

Field editor

Piper Whelan is a field editor with Canadian Cattlemen. She grew up on a purebred, Maine-Anjou ranch near Irricana, Alta., and previously wrote for Top Stock, Western Horse Review, and various beef breed publications.

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