Midan Logo - blue
05.03.2022

Ad Nauseam

Meatingplace July
Last week I had the honor of attending and speaking at the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef’s (USRSB) General Assembly meeting. This conference is a true roundtable, bringing together the entire beef supply chain for frank conversations about how to improve upon the sustainability of beef. At the table: ranchers, academia, packers, processors, retailers, foodservice operators and other key stakeholders. It is impressive when the voices of companies including Ikea, McDonald’s, Costco and Taco Bell – all feeling the pressure from consumers, investors and upcoming regulatory reporting mandates – are heard alongside the cowboys.

This meeting was also a celebration of the finalizing of sustainability goals for the channel in six sectors: air & greenhouse gas emissions, land resources, water resources, employee safety & well-being, animal health & well-being and efficiency & yield. You can find the goals as well as the metrics by which success will be measured for each target (cow calf, feedyard, packer & processor, etc.) here.

For my presentation, Midan had been asked to shine a spotlight on the consumers’ perspective when it comes to sustainability. I shared with this group how consumers currently think about meat and sustainability and when, in the near future, they see sustainably raised claims on packages in the meat case, what they believe that will mean.

Consumers know sustainability is important, they just don’t know how to value it. They are inundated with a barrage of messages trying to convince them that all climate concerns could magically be resolved with one simple solution: eradication of the beef industry. Those of us in the industry know this simply couldn’t be further from the truth. The beef industry is part of the solution, one of the very limited ways we can naturally recycle carbon in our quest to care for planet earth.

But none of our efforts will matter if, in the end, consumers don’t see what we see or don’t at least begin to understand that the beef industry is, in fact, contributing to the improvement of our land, air, water and climate. While they seek to give themselves permission to continue to purchase and enjoy beef, they are also dealing with a bombardment of messages that suggest they shouldn’t. We must ensure they hear about the work being done to further enhance sustainability throughout the industry.

Here are the top two points from my presentation:

  1. Lead with animal well-being.
  2. Sustainability is wide and broad and confusing to consumers. When we talk about it, we have to talk about it in a way they understand and can get behind. Right now, today, that is animal well-being. Animal welfare is important to consumers; our research has shown it also serves as the gateway by which we earn the right to talk about the other areas that are also important on our sustainability journey. If you want to talk to consumers about your sustainability efforts, bring it back to caring for the animals. This is the starting point.
  3. Communicate ad nauseam.
  4. We have to communicate our efforts effectively and ad nauseam. Seriously, I purposely chose this phrase because once we have said something a couple of times we are ready to move on, but doing so will only foil our efforts. In order for our message to cut through the clutter and safely lodge itself in the gray matter we lovingly refer to as the brain, we have to say the same message over and over and over and over and… well, you get it… over again. It used to be that seven times was enough to repeat something to make it stick, but with the introduction of smart phones and streaming, 24/7 “always on” mode, research suggests the noise we are surrounded by each day makes it hard for any messages to securely land. That is why I told this group we have to do it ad nauseam… at least 21 times… well past when we are sick of saying it. Only then do we have a chance of it sticking.
I am excited about USRSB’s goals. I am excited that we will be gathering measurements of improvement in many areas that we can share with consumers. And I am excited to help communicate key messages to consumers so that we do earn the right by which they agree with us that beef is part of the sustainability solution.
SHARE