Speak Truths about Ag, Even in a Cab!

Guest blog post by Annette Sweeney, Iowa beef producer

“I produce the nutritious healthy beef you eat,” was my response to the cabby who asked me what I do for a living. He said, “No way! You can’t be a farmer… you don’t look like one.” Then he went on to say, “I eat meat now and then, but I don’t know very much about cows and stuff.”

We started to have a dialogue about how beef is part of a healthy diet. I mentioned that beef has special proteins that provide all of the essential building blocks that your body needs. In fact, when my husband hurt his leg, the doctors told us to make sure he ate a lot of protein to help heal his muscles. Also, animal protein is very important for developing children. If children don’t get enough, their development may be hindered.”

At the next red light he asked, “What about vegetables?” I responded by saying, “Yes, we need fruit, vegetables and dairy. We need common sense on our plates!”

We continued to discuss a healthy diet. One food group doesn’t give all that your body needs for proper brain and muscle function. The crucial part of healthy eating is having a balanced diet that includes foods from all groups.

“Meat and poultry have iron, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.  Oh, the whole B12 thing is really important for mind health and digesting nutrients, especially if you are over 50. Beef is a great natural way to get it all those nutrients. ‘And yes,’ I said with a grin as he looked at me through the rear view mirror, ‘I need B12’.”

He then said, “Wow! Meat has all that stuff. Why has no one put that out there?”

Cattle producers are trying to spread the great news about beef, but honestly, it’s hard to attract positive attention from mainstream media. Fortunately, May Beef Month and June Steak Month provide opportunities for us to talk about how nutritional beef products are and why raising cattle is good for the environment.

The cabby and I went on to visit about how cattle are good for the environment. The U.S. beef industry uses 19% less feed, 12% less water, 33% less land and has a 16% lower carbon footprint than production systems of the 1970s. Globally, U.S. livestock production is among the most efficient, which reduces our environmental impact compared to other regions. Without livestock operations, many by-products from food, fiber, fuel production would be wasted. Fragile ecosystems within pastureland would be destroyed to grow foods on land that’s currently unsuitable for crop production.

This cabby asked great questions. Before I got out, I asked him, “What does a farmer look like?” He just laughed and assured me that he was going to buy steaks that weekend to celebrate. “To celebrate what?” I asked. He responded by saying that he had always liked beef but now he knew why. “Beef is good for me and my family. We’re going to celebrate that!”

As I headed into the airport, I smiled as I thought about the conversation I had in the cab. If this simple gal from Iowa can visit about truths in agriculture, you can too! For more science-based information about beef, visit www.explorebeef.org and www.beefnutrition.org.