Just three days before Christmas last year, USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack announced a slate of new Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) members. Dean James "DJ" Edwards had been tagged by the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association (KCA) as the state’s representative.  He had earned the nomination by serving long and well in a variety of ag industry-oriented groups.

“I thought you needed to serve proactively rather than sit by passively and allow things to happen,” he said as he explained why he has always been willing to step up and do the necessary work to help propel the cattle industry forward.

That urge to ‘step up’ got him involved in the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, and the Farm Bureau. He had been president of the KCA and had served three years on the Beef Advisory Committee of Elanco. It’s that important depth of industry knowledge that comes from working long and hard with various ag groups that gives CBB members the skills necessary to serve effectively.

Edwards operates DJ Edwards Cattle Co, a cattle producer located in Hamilton, KS, about 2 ½ hours southwest of Kansas City.  He also feeds cattle in Florida, Kansas, Texas and Nebraska.  Maybe a better way to explain his various pursuits is to list the industry segments where you can find him: Cow-Calf, feedlot, and stocker.  Overlay a map of the major cattle producing states and you’ll have a pretty good description of what keep him busy day-to-day. He looks after several thousand cattle scattered among those three industry segments.

A third generation rancher, he said he was fortunate to come along when his grandfather wanted to slow down a little bit.  “My dad was in cows,” he said, “so it was a natural progression for me.”

About continuing the family tradition into a fourth generation, he said, “I’ve got a daughter and a nephew who might be interested.” 

Jade, his 15-year-old daughter, could be the next Edwards family cattle rancher.  She already spends a lot of time helping her dad.  She’s a 4H member who enjoys showing livestock, too. “She still has a lot of time to figure out what she wants to do,” said DJ, obviously proud of his offspring.

DJ has been a CBB member since February who seems delighted that he’s been appointed to the Consumer Trust Committee. “We get to go face-to-face with consumers,” he said, “and talk with them about their concerns. We can watch social media for issues that bubble up and be proactive rather than reactive in the way we handle them. 

“We can’t just sit back on our heels and wait for things to happen if we want to have a positive influence on the issues. When it comes to things like food safety and nutrition, we need to watch the social media and be ready to act very early as issues emerge.”

As an example, he mentioned dietary fat. Considered to be unhealthy for decades, especially when it came from beef, it has been experiencing a renaissance lately. Books like ‘The Big Fat Surprise,’ by Nina Teicholz have forced the dietary community to revisit their long-held beliefs.

“We need to take the lead when it comes to talking about issues like that,” he said, “and the Consumer Trust committee can help us do that.”