Mary Kay Monger: Defending the beef industry

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— Defending the beef industry is the responsibility of every beef producer. We, as beef producers, also have a valuable resource available to us through the check-off dollars that we pay each time a beef animal is sold. Those dollars are providing our advertising and have monitored and helped correct the negative publicity we have been getting.

Case in point; On Jan. 30, the Humane Society of the United States, not to be confused with the original Humane Society, released a video depicting animal mistreatment at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. The company is a supplier of the National School Lunch Program. On Feb. 17, the USDA announced the recall of 143 million pounds of raw and frozen beef products that came from that plant. The USDA noted that this was a class 11 recall because it did not present a health risk to consumers. The recall occurred because Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. did not follow regulations for the handling of nonambulatory animals. Unfortunately, there are always those out there who choose neither to be good stewards nor follow the regulations of the industry. Because this company did not follow the policies on the treatment of animals, millions of tons of safe beef product were destroyed. I wonder what starving places think of that? All we can do is watch and report if we see any of this happening. It is to our advantage to handle our livestock with care and ensure that we are getting the best and the safest beef product in the world to the American people.

Here are a few of things that our Beef Council did to help the public understand what happened with the recall.

- Funded National Cattlemen's Beef Association media response team, distributed multiple media alerts and pitched media availability in top markets to push for the beef industry perspective in coverage. These efforts resulted in more that 80 broadcast stories carrying the beef industry's safety reassurance message to millions of people. The NCBA team also coordinated beef industry responses to about 25 media requests, including outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News, MSNBC, NBC and the FOX Business Network.

- Colorado Beef Council conducted an interview with CBS News 4 as well as a few radio stations.

- Many phone calls were taken from consumers and producers, and information was relayed to them.

- Colorado Beef Council sent letters to administrations in the schools that had pulled the beef product explaining that the beef was safe to eat. At least one school put beef back on the menu.

It is unfortunate that when something goes wrong somewhere, we all have to pay the consequences. Most of us are very good stewards of the land and the animals. We are always looking for and learning new ways to improve our operations. Our lives depend on it. I would hope that all of you would come to understand that we have the safest beef product in the world. Please feel free to contact the Colorado Beef Council for any information you may need at (303) 830-7892. You also may contact your local CattleWomen or Cattlemen's Associations.

Mary Kay Monger is the Routt County CattleWomen president.

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