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Who Do You Want in Charge of Beef Promotion?
Colorado Springs, CO March 28, 2011
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A couple Novembers ago, a little while before Thanksgiving, a giant postcard fell out of my mail. On one side, a picture showed a family with their heads bowed around the Thanksgiving Day dinner table. The headline?
“Are they thankful for the food, or are they praying it won’t kill them?”
Yeah, my jaw dropped, too and I re-read that several times to make sure I had it right. Then I skimmed the rest to find out who had had the effrontery to insert something like that into the Catholic Herald. I should have known but I didn’t think even he would stoop that low to market beef. I was wrong.
This was Mike Callicrate’s beef marketing genius at work. Founding and active member of R-CALF and the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), Mike’s table tents on restaurants in town scream, “No Hormones, No Drugs” as the main selling proposition to diners. His theory is that only his beef is safe to eat – and the other 99 plus percentof beef found in American restaurants and supermarkets will make you sick or kill you. That’s why he made sure to bring kindred spirit Eric Schlosser to town for a book signing when his movie Fast Food Nationwas released, attacking mainstream meat production as hazardous to your health.
The handful of cattlemen to whom I’ve shown that postcard were outraged. I bring it up now because Callicrate has waded into the controversy over what kind of cattlemen should be in control of beef marketing through the national beef checkoff. Recently, his e-mail newsletter charged that one of the country’s leading state cattlemen’s organizations was guilty of grand larceny and, therefore, they were just like NCBA (“Wall Street on the Range,” Mike Callicrate, 03/26/11).
It’s kind of ironic, really. Callicrate cannot believe either NCBA’s policy division or Kansas Livestock Association’s (KLA) policy side can accomplish all they do on the dues money they receive from cattlemen. He believes the answer is that they have to be stealing money in order to be as good and effective as they are. And he really hates it that they are tooth and nail fighting the GIPSA Rule he thinks is the salvation of the meat industry and which the majority of cattlemen fear as the death knell for consistent, high quality, affordable beef.
What is his “evidence?” He provides a copy of part of a page of KLA’s tax return. It shows a revenue line listing checkoff funds. Another revenue line is dues income. Another sheet shows Dee Likes is CEO of KLA and treasurer of the Kansas Beef Council. >From that Callicrate concludes that KLA is “diverting the Kansas Beef Council (Beef Checkoff) dollars in much the same way NCBA reroutes the National Beef Checkoff funds – to their own bank accounts.” We see no evidence Callicrate has presented on which to base felony charges against either KLA or NCBA.
And, of course, there are other “one-hat” state cattlemen’s associations in which, because cattle numbers and revenue are too small to support separate staffs or the state’s cattlemen’s groups consolidated as much as possible years ago for efficiency and unification purposes, the state cattlemen’s association and state beef council share CEOs and staff. Is Callicrate implying that all one-hat associations are crooked?
Of course, Callicrate can’t resist adding his usual charge that mainstream cattle organizations like NCBA and KLA can’t really represent grassroots cattlemen because they don’t automatically oppose anything that comes out of the mouth of a packer/processor or retailer – those whomerchandise our product to consumers every day. Unless you sue packers, try to destroy beef programs or alliances in which cattlemen, packers and/or retailers cooperate (GIPSA Rule) or are not a small, independent cattlemen who agrees with Callicrate, then you are a lower form of planetary protoplasm.
To run with Callicrate and his separatist crowd, you MUST distrustnearly everyone else’s motives and integrity and believe that everyone must be set against one another in order to prevent cheating, collusion and coercion. Industries must be broken up into little separate segmentsand mom and pop companies, feedyards and ranches must be all independent of each other and trade groups must be separated by very small interest areas — and it’s best if nearly everyone everywhere hates each other so no one gets too cozy. In other words, efficiency, cooperation, leverage of capital and skill, economies of scale, competition to serve the customer – all the hallmarks of a growing, efficient free enterprise capitalist system must be foresworn to satisfy theparanoia of people like Callicrate and organizations like R-CALF and OCM.
Why do we not just ignore these charges as just the ravings of a radical, far out cattleman and purveyor of beef? Because while Callicrate’s charges are brash and apparently just baseless opinion, they are only by degrees wilder than the charges factions within the Cattlemen’s Beef Board have been making against NCBA for the last year. Callicrate’s charges bring to the fore a problem the industry needs to understand thoroughly and deal with right away to get our only national promotion, research and education organization back on track.
The bottom line is this: do you want people in charge of the beef industry’s marketing efforts like those who have reversed the 20-year declining trend through CBB’s past leadership and the contract work of NCBA, USMEF, ANCW and others? Or do you want people and organizations in lock step with Callicrate’s marketing theory ofdestroying consumer confidence in beef and attacking packers, retailers and foodservice operators instead of working with them to process and merchandise beef? Anyone out there want the checkoff to work with Eric Schlosser of Fast Food Nation and Food Inc. andMichael Pollan of “Omnivore’s Dilemma” to promote our beef?
Look for a Special Investigative Report from AFF closely examining and exposing this situation very soon.
On the blog today:
1) See the post card Mike Callicrate sent all good Catholics in Colorado Springs diocese.
2. Read about the major Senate EPA vote any day now and what you can do to help.
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