Transparency in the Beef Industry

Patti Brumbach, who grew up on a dairy farm in central Washington, always wanted to be in the business of promoting agriculture to consumers. As executive director of the Washington State Beef Commission (WSBC), she gets to do that every day.

About eight years ago, WSBC noticed a lot of miscommunication about traditional beef. “We were seeing a focus on organic, natural and grass-fed, and a lot of disparagement about traditional beef production,”  Brumbach says. The WSBC wanted to provide a positive message about traditional beef production and thought the best way would be to follow the old adage: Show, don’t tell.

The WSBC started giving tours of beef operations to the public. “We took them to a ranch and introduced them to the ranching community, then we took them to a feedyard, and then completed the experience by taking them to a packing plant. Our goal is to demonstrate complete transparency, and make sure they understood that there was no question that would be insulting to us, that there was nothing off the table, and that we were there to help them to understand how beef is produced,” said Brumbach. “We wanted to make sure they were armed with the correct information.” They started out with a very small tour for influential culinary instructors and chefs.

“It was proactive: We need to tell our story, we need to be more transparent, we need to help people understand how all beef is produced,” she says. “There are many different production practices and methods, but the bottom line is it’s all the same safe beef, and so that’s really the core of our message as we do these tours.”

Now the tour has grown into a two-day experience for about 30 people interested in beef for a variety of reasons. “We’ve really expanded as our need has grown. Today we work with retailers, physicians who are interested in antibiotic-resistance issues, even food bloggers and dietitians. There’s no limit to who we invite, as long as they play a role in impacting the perceptions of consumers, and especially millennial consumers.”

Click here to read more about what Patti Brumbach and the WSBC are doing to promote traditional beef production in the state of Washington.