During the fifth-annual Beef Leaders Institute (BLI), Angus breeders from 11 states were able to experience all aspects of the beef industry – from feedlot to retailer. Hosted by the American Angus Association®, the four-day leadership training provides young producers, between 25 and 45 years old, the opportunity to network with others, learn more about the Association and engage in many sectors of the entire beef industry.
“At BLI, we had the unique opportunity to see the Association and learn about its rich history in the cattle business,” says Dan Ogren from Langford, S.D. “It’s more than that, though. I had the chance to meet new people who are involved in the breed and learn from their experiences and operations.”
This year’s BLI took place June 17-20, thanks to funding made possible by the Angus Foundation. Twenty Angus producers met in Saint Joseph, Mo., to begin the program with an in-depth tour of the Association. While there, participants heard about the variety of ways the Association works for its nearly 30,000 members.
“We are encouraged by the bright, up-and-coming leaders of the Angus breed,” says Bryce Schumann, Association chief executive officer. “This year’s BLI was filled with informative sessions and top-notch tours.”
All BLI participants also completed the Master’s of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program, organized by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). They participated in a commencement before beginning their two-day tour across three states.
Throughout BLI travels, they visited Gregory Feedlot, Tabor, Iowa; Tyson, beef processing plant, Dakota City, Neb.; Whole Foods Market, grocery store, Omaha, Neb.; Cargill Meat Solutions, value-added processing plant, Nebraska City, Neb.; and Sysco, food distributor, Lincoln, Neb.
“It was very interesting to see all the aspects of the beef industry,” says Brock Foxhoven from Crofton, Neb. “I see the industry through the filter of my cattle and my operation but don’t get the chance to see it through the eyes of a feeder or packing plant. BLI expanded my point of view to see the whole picture.”
2012 BLI class members are: Rob Adams, Union Springs, Ala.; Alison Allegrucci, Prairie Village, Kan.; Devyn Ballagh, Burwell, Neb.; Vince Bickel, Gordon, Neb.; Luke Bowman, Greens Fork, Ind.; Scott Bush, Britton, S.D.; Blair Carney, Adair, Iowa; Dustin Carter, Vermillion, S.D.; Mercedes Danekas, Wilton, Calif.; Cheryl Day, Cerro Gordo, Ill.; Brock Foxhoven, Crofton, Neb.; David Holden, Red Bluff, Calif.; Clint Hunter, Fair Grove, Mo.; Spencer Jones, Boone, Iowa; Chris Miller, Mabel, Minn.; Andy Mindemann, Oconomowoc, Wis.; Daniel Ogren, Langford, S.D.; Chris Styles, Brentford, S.D.; David Uhrig, Hermosa, S.D.; and Cody Washam, Pierce City, Mo.
Emphasis on Beef Advocacy
As part of the Beef Leaders Institute (BLI), participants earned credentials through the Master’s of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program, organized by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Before the institute began, they viewed six different courses online. The BLI class learned to apply advocacy skills from Daren Williams, NCBA executive director of communications, during the MBA commencement in Saint Joseph, Mo.
“Consumers today have a lot of questions about where their food comes from, which I think is a good thing because it allows the opportunity for us to engage in a conversation with them about beef and answer their questions,” Williams says.
His key advice for producers is to listen carefully to consumer questions and concerns. That’s a lesson BLI participant Mercedes Danekas, Wilton, Calif., values as well.
“Taking part in the MBA commencement really gave me more confidence when speaking with consumers,” Danekas says. “I don’t have to be an expert in every area of beef production to simply listen and answer questions.”