Skewed information about raising cattle and their impact on the environment has been circulating the world for a long time. But recently, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association conducted a large research project to counter that negativity.
“Our aim is to increase public trust in Canadian beef production,” said Amie Peck, stakeholder engagement manager with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
The CCA most recently raised awareness with a campaign called Guardians of the Grasslands, a short documentary that explored cattle’s role in preserving the grasslands of the Great Plains.
In a webinar, Peck said the CCA is now focusing on how feedlots minimize food waste as a way to reach a wider audience.
“So we have to be able to link into that desire for (consumers) to feel like they’re doing something that could be a little bit where the grasslands conversation falls short,” she said.
“It’s really a little bit separate from the individual whereas with food waste, they say, ‘OK, I’m doing this in my home, I can see how this relates to agriculture and other sectors.’”
The CCA research was conducted with 88 participants, mostly urban residents or those who aren’t connected with farming. They were shown a series of ads and a video depicting how feedlot production can have a positive impact in areas such as food waste and climate change.
“The key message is Canadian beef farmers are an integral part of reducing food waste in Canada,” Peck said.
The people surveyed said they had heard negative things about beef production, such as that it is bad for the environment, but their views were changed by additional information.
The CCA showed participants social media ads and content depicting the ways that feedlots use food waste. Some use grocery store waste as cattle feed when it is near its expiry date or deemed unfit for human consumption. Another ad showed cattle eating brewers grain mash, a byproduct of beer-making.
“And the most common reaction that we saw here was really, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t know this. Why isn’t this shared more widely?’ So you know, what we see is that’s working,” Peck said.
They also showed participants a video of a rancher getting produce from a grocery store and feeding it to his cattle. Again, Peck said it generated a positive response.
“What we heard back from respondents is that again, it came across as highly appealing, extremely positive and really important,” she said.
“It shows how farmers are responsibly forming alliances and partnerships to feed cattle. And there was a lot of comments on the farmer as a spokesperson, which makes the video more personal and more interesting.”
Peck said they surveyed participants after showing them the content to see which message resonated the most — the role of cattle in protecting the grasslands or the role of feedlots with food waste. She said 53 percent found the food waste message to be more relevant to them, whereas 34 percent preferred the grasslands message.
Peck said this is because urban residents find food waste to be more relevant.