The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has outlined aggressive steps for assuring continued consumer confidence in the safety of U.S. beef.

Many of these efforts are being conducted on behalf of the Cattlemen's Beef Board through the beef checkoff. The overall strategy includes tactics for working with government, industry and consumer experts to provide facts about Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) to appropriate audiences, including consumer media and food channels such as meat processors, retailers and
restaurant operators.

The organization's most recent research (April 2001) shows that 85 percent of consumers remain confident in the safety of U.S. beef. That is statistically unchanged from the 87-percent confidence level obtained in research from February of this year – the highest level of consumer confidence since NCBA began capturing the data.

Still, despite ongoing public and media relations since the first of the year, at least 90 days of continued consumer media exposure to BSE and FMD has created confusion among consumers about the safety of the products they're eating. The research shows that 93 percent of consumers have heard something recently about "Mad Cow Disease" (BSE), and 81 percent had heard something recently about FMD.

Using checkoff dollars, dues dollars from NCBA members and support from allied industry companies, NCBA is utilizing a combination of strategies to address the issues in the media and through public relations channels.

Upcoming NCBA strategies include:

  • Work with American Dietetic Association and others to brief food and nutrition spokespersons on BSE and FMD in preparation for interviews around Memorial Day and the start of the grilling season;
  • Continued aggressive media management of stories surrounding BSE and FMD including an aggressive rapid response plan;
  • Increased coalition work to share information with groups such as American Meat Institute, International Food Information Council, Food
    Marketing Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Restaurant Association, National Renderers Association, National Feed Industry Association, National Grain and Feed Association, National Pork Producers, National Food Processors Association, American Farm Bureau Federation and others;
  • Participation in industry meetings with foodservice, retailers, manufacturers and packers to share information on BSE and FMD;
  • Additional consumer attitude tracking surveys on BSE and FMD;
  • An updated Crisis Response Plan to include FMD, with message research updated for both BSE and FMD;
  • Promotion of results of the Harvard University BSE Risk Assessment Study, planned for release in May. Planned tactics (pending agreement from USDA, and Harvard) include:
  • Video News Release and/or Satellite Media Tour;
  • Webcast in conjunction with VNR / SMT;
  • Aggressive pitching of NCBA Chief Executive Officer Chuck Schroeder, other NCBA spokespersons to offer Beef Industry perspective regarding report/findings;
  • Distribution of the Harvard Research summary to media, industry partners, state beef councils and others.
  • An 8-page, four color publication on BSE and FMD to insert in national and state cattle and beef publications to reach 500,000 to 700,000 producers;
  • A quick informational reference for producers on BSE and FMD.

Significant steps have already been taken to enhance accurate information with all audiences. These include:

  • The launch of www.bseinfo.org, which provides both technical and layman information on BSE;
  • Media briefings by Chuck Schroeder with 12 national outlets in late January;
  • More than 350 media interviews with national and international media since Jan. 1, 2001;
  • A mailing to more than 1,000 U.S. reporters, including business, agri-business, medical/health, food channel and broadcast;
  • A 4-page BSE update to producer media and key national media targets;
  • A 4-page FMD update for producers and other audiences;
  • Development of consumer brochures and flyers for distribution at retail, foodservice and other outlets;
  • Electronic updates on BSE and FMD to national media contacts via e-mail and/or news services;
  • Consumer attitude tracking surveys conducted in February and April;
  • BSE editorials for placement in ag trade, consumer and food marketing publications.

National Cattlemen's Beef Association