I love to travel, even if it does mean riding in a small Delta puddle jumper with a grumpy flight staff. A few weeks ago, I had the really awesome opportunity to travel to Arkansas and be a judge for the 2014 National Beef Ambassador contest. I was never a participant in the program, but have seen the extent of their activities at national trade shows and coverage of their consumer outreach at events across the country.
23 states were represented, including Tennessee and Montana which both had junior (high school) and senior (college) participants. Tennessee’s Rachael Wolters made the senior team! The juniors are able to return to the competition. Seniors only have one year of competition. I wrote up a piece from the Montana perspective on the MSGA blog.
What is a National Beef Ambassador?
National Beef Ambassadors are passionate youth advocates for the beef community. The individuals on the National Beef Ambassador Team are the official youth representatives of the American National CattleWomen, Inc. [ANCW] and the beef industry. Each year a team of five National Beef Ambassadors is selected during a national contest to travel the United States sharing the story of beef from pasture to plate with consumers and students.
What is the purpose of the National Beef Ambassador Program?
The purpose of the program is to provide American consumers and students with positive nutritional, economic, and environmental stewardship information related to beef consumption and the beef industry. Participants learn how to effectively address issues and misconceptions, accurately share industry practices, and promote the versatile uses of beef.
Learn more in the FAQs on the Beef Ambassador page.
I had the opportunity to judge the Issues Response section. Contestants were given a hot topic article and were given 30 minutes to write a response to consumers in the form of a ‘Letter to the Editor’. One article focused on Meatless Mondays, while the other focused on environmental impact of beef cattle production. Some of those kids know their stuff! The BoviDiva (a.k.a. Dr. Jude Capper) even had her research on the topic mentioned several times.
Not only was this a great opportunity to catch up, enjoy a few meals and drinks with awesome friends from across the country (like Dairy Carrie, the REAL Beefman, Brandi “Buzzard”, and Mal the Beef Gal), I awesome got to meet some new folks and watch some amazing youth who will be the future ambassadors of our beef community. Even if these kids never win the competition, they are receiving some great training on what it means to be an advocate and outspoken for a cause you believe in.
There were a few kids who relied heavily on the coined PR phrases and industry lingo, and a few that still have some polishing up to do on being able to convey their message to consumers, but overall, it was a great group of kids. The team was chosen on Saturday night after a long day of competition and hearty steak supper. For those who didn’t make the team, I say press on. You don’t have to have a title or be a part of an official team to make a difference.
The agriculture community needs more folks like these youth in training to step up and be advocates for our way of life.