Knowing the facts about cattle and beef production and being able to effectively communicate those facts to those outside your industry is important. But just knowing the facts about your industry is not enough. You must also practice the appropriate management techniques to show that your words are backed by your actions. In other words, you must talk the talk and walk the walk.

 If your business is producing beef, people outside of the industry may expect you to be able to answer a variety of questions about beef production. To help you prepare for those important encounters with consumers, last year we published Beef Industry Talking Points (Drovers, October 2006), a series of articles on the following subjects: communication; beef safety; hormones and antibiotics; family vs. factory farms; environment; organic, natural and grass-fed; nutrition; and animal welfare.

This year we’re examining five important issues that can dramatically affect consumer perception of your ranch and the beef you produce. We’ve provided Talking Points for each subject — answers to those important questions about modern beef production. Additionally, however, this year we’ve included Walking Points, things you can do on your ranch or in your feedyard that show your actions speak as loud as your words.

Topics include: Environment — Cattle and Climate Change; Food Safety; Animal Health Equals Animal Welfare; Friendly Feeding; and Ethanol — No Free Lunch.

We encourage you to become better educated about your industry and how it is perceived by consumers. You should also keep talking points ready about key issues. Always be ready to share something positive about what you do, your industry or the products you produce. These are your brand messages. Commit them to memory or laminate them on a note card. (Talking Points from last year, and Talking Points and Walking Points from this issue are available at www.drovers.com.)

Because you live in the beef industry everyday, no one can tell beef’s story like you can. Today’s beef industry has many positive messages, and those messages can help consumers gain a better understanding of your industry. We hope you’ll find this issue useful as you prepare for your next opportunity to speak up for beef.

Communication Talking Points

  • Use questions to disarm. If someone says something about your industry, respond by asking questions. Then proceed with your explanation.
  • Avoid the instant debate. If someone makes a factually incorrect statement, ask questions, listen and try to develop a relationship in which information is shared.
  • Keep talking points ready. Develop a few key messages that share something positive about what you do, your industry or the products you produce.
  • Avoid confrontational people. If someone is not a listener, or has had a bad experience with beef and wants to be confrontational, then it’s probably best to back off and agree to disagree.