Cameron Bruett of JBS-USA Addresses the Beef Industry's Problem with Perception vs. RealityTue, 06 Nov 2018 10:34:00 CST
Cameron Bruett is head of corporate affairs and sustainability at JBS-USA, a leading North American meat processor and the world’s largest cattle feeder. He spoke about the issue of sustainability in the beef industry as a keynote speaker during the 2018 American Angus Association Convention this past week in Columbus, Ohio. According to him, one of the main issues at hand when it comes to sustainability, especially in regard to the consumer, is the difference between perception and reality. Listen to his complete conversation with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
At one point, according to Bruett, one of the main concerns consumers had about the beef industry was the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it produced. While the data that supported that claim - that the industry posed an environmental threat via gas emission - was incorrect, people still perceived that to be a problem. Since the report that launched those fears was first published, the conversation has continued to move on. As for now, Bruett says the new focus goes beyond greenhouse gases and more into an overall environmental scope about water and energy use as well as animal welfare.
But the problem that faces the beef industry and all of agriculture for that matter has stayed the same. While the industry is in fact doing a good job at producing quality protein and doing it quite sustainably, the public seems unconvinced with the reality of that situation.
“The modern-day consumer is bombarded with so much messaging by biased individuals that it is very difficult to break through all that noise,” Bruett said. “But the reality for our industry is demand is growing and the product continues to fly off the shelves. So, we’re doing something right.”
This begs that question of how the industry can continue to produce a high-quality product without compromising itself by yielding too much to consumer concerns and doing away with the very technologies that make our production system work so efficiently. Essentially, Bruett is searching for the right balance of conventional production and sustainable practices to make the most desirable product for the customer. This is a discussion that Bruett has engaged in with industry stakeholders as well as others outside the industry who represent the consumers’ concerns. These conversations have taken place within the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. Bruett says it has been crucially important to be a proactive member of the roundtable, as a voice for the beef industry and its interests.
“It’s important for a number of reasons. The primary reason being, if we all sit in a room together and just talk to ourselves, I can tell you what the outcome of that meeting is going to be,” he said. “We’re all going to feel good about it and we’re not going to move the needle at all. In today’s modern age, you have to collaborate, not with your adversaries, but with people who you might not necessarily consider an ally.”
Bruett explains that by working with those who are open to finding common ground to accomplish a similar mission, then you can affectively strengthen your position by making them an advocate for your cause by establishing a shared goal and relationship. In addition, Bruett says that engaging with others outside your own industry forces you to challenge your own perceptions. Nothing that has come out of the GRSB, says Bruett, would fundamentally alter the way we produce beef in the US- but common ground has been established.
“There has been contention and a lot of heated discussion but at the end of the day we now have more advocates around the world for beef and beef sustainability than we ever did,” Bruett said.
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