Beef Issues Quarterly Archive

Issues Media Monitoring and Response Analysis: March 2015 – May 2015

by Season Solorio, Executive Director, Issues & Reputation Management and Joe Hansen, Director, Issues Response, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, contractors to the Beef Checkoff


There have been two key media areas of focus related to agriculture between March – May 2015, they are water usage and retail/food service announcements related to animal welfare and antibiotics. It is important to note that not all of these announcements have implications for beef. Water usage has come into focus because of the prolonged drought currently taking place in California. In March, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed emergency legislation to fast-track more than $1 billion in funding for drought relief and critical water infrastructure projects. 

The second area of focus was from several major retail and food service companies announcing new sourcing standards or sourcing changes, including antibiotic usage policy changes. While none of the announcements are beef-specific, they do have broader implications for beef. Some of these announcements came from Walmart, McDonald’s and Aramark.


On a daily basis, the Issues and Reputation Management team, on behalf of the Beef Checkoff, carefully surveys the landscape across traditional media, broadcast media and social media to determine which issues warrant a response. Using a variety of tools, including CARMA for broadcast and traditional media monitoring and Nuvi for social media monitoring, the team overlays the data from both applications to create a clear picture of how an issue is playing out in the external environment. 

Each quarter, CARMA reviews traditional media coverage and a small sampling of social media monitoring coverage and assigns a favorability rating to this coverage. From March through May 2015 a total of 614 traditional media stories and a random sampling of 996 social media mentions were analyzed as part of the quarterly monitoring report through CARMA. The random sampling of 996 social media mentions was a snapshot of more than 1,273,894 mentions of the beef industry during the same period. Nutritional Vegetarianism was the top issue over the three month period, primarily driven by concerns over the drought and the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  


Often, missing from the conversation about drought is the reality that farmers and ranchers have been working for generations to conserve water resources every day, not just in recent years, with the understanding that water is a precious resource. Several years ago the Beef Checkoff completed the largest lifecycle assessment ever undertaken on a commodity and determined that it takes 617 gallons of water to produce one pound of boneless beef, taking into account all water usage from farm to fork, including water to grow crops and used for processing beef. The Beef Checkoff has amplified several pieces of content on Twitter to make sure we are providing balanced information to consumers, specifically in California.  


Figure 1: Cattle and water use media and social media coverage, Feb. 2014 - April 2015

The other major area of emphasis is monitoring announcements made by food service and retail companies. The Beef Checkoff has been engaging with food service and retail target accounts through both the Integrated Communications team and Issues & Reputation Management team. Below is a chart of key announcements within the channel and their relevance to beef, if any.

In addition to this direct outreach, we have also been engaging online through a new video describing how beef goes from pasture to plate. This video was filmed in Nebraska and explains the entire beef lifecycle, from the cow/calf operation through the packing plant. The video was amplified online through Facebook and Twitter, by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, which is partially supported by the Beef Checkoff.

In the two months that the video has been online it has been viewed nearly 5,000 times. The average viewer watches 3:23 seconds of the 4:48 second video, which are remarkable viewership stats. This means the average person watched 71 percent of the video, well above the average for other YouTube videos according to the site.


Balancing the dialogue online and directly with retail and food service companies remains the priority.  The beef lifecycle is complex and explaining the “on the ground” realities of raising cattle is a job that must continue. One way to help is by participating in the Masters of Beef Advocacy program. The checkoff-funded MBA program is a self-directed online training program, designed to equip beef producers and industry allies with the information they need to be everyday advocates for the beef industry. Masters of Beef Advocacy students will be required to complete five courses in beef advocacy, including:  The Beef Community, Raising Cattle on Grass, Life in the Feedyard, From Cattle to Beef and Beef. It's What's For Dinner. 

Additional Resources



Tags: Beef Issues Quarterly, Issues Monitoring, Summer 2015

June 15, 2015