Consumers have questions about beef, but who provides the answers?
In some cases, unfortunately, the people facing the questions might not have the training or background to answer accurately, potentially contributing to consumer confusion and the spread of misinformation about beef.
A new NCBA and Beef Checkoff program, with support from Merck Animal Health, aims to train retail meat-department employees to serve as well-prepared sources of factual information about beef and beef production.
In development for more than two years, the program resulted, in part, from research Merck Animal Health conducted with consumers. Kyle Pfeiffer, account manager for food chain affairs at Merck, says the in-depth surveys explored consumers’ knowledge of beef and beef production, their concerns and the types of messages or terminology that create positive impressions. The surveys also revealed that consumers generally identify with store butchers as credible sources of information on beef.
Melissa Tessitore, NCBA’s senior director of organizational communications, says the “Better Beef Sales” online training course consists of six modules that walk the trainee through topics including modern beef production; the differences between types of beef such as grass-fed, natural or traditional; cuts of beef; beef safety; animal welfare; and others.
Videos and activities within each module prepare the trainee for a quiz upon completion. Expert sources in the videos include ranchers, cattle feeders, meat scientists and animal scientists including such recognizable authorities as Temple Grandin.
The program’s developers gathered input from retailers and experts from across the meat industry while designing the course and selecting its content.
The course takes about two hours to complete, Tessitore says, and trainees can break their training into several shorter sessions. Upon completion, participants receive a certifi cate to verify their training. The program’s developers are promoting the training to retailers, anticipating that store managers will encourage or require employees to complete the training. The course resides on the BeefRetail.org website, which retailers already use for beef sales and merchandising information.
So, next time you visit your local supermarket’s meat department, ask an employee the best way to cook a chuck roast or the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Hopefully, they’ll have completed the Better Beef Sales course and will give you an informed and factual answer.