You will find truth more quickly through delight than gravity. Let out a little more string on your kite.
I think it’s fair to say that the beef checkoff program has been in the thick of some dynamic debates recently. And while those discussions are important, we simply must stay focused on why we, as beef farmers and ranchers, are here: to make every beef meal a delightful one.
Does the word “delightful” sound out of context here, to you? I have become increasingly dedicated lately to the concept of customer delight—an awesome, unexpectedly wonderful customer experience. We are part of a larger team that works each day to delight customers and feed people.
I know we have the skills, and the tools, to ensure a delightful customer experience. But the noise around us definitely is a barrier we have to overcome. Whether that noise is about us or peripheral to us, we must remain tightly focused on our beef community, especially our customers. We are the producers, and producers are a small subset of the eaters (yes, Virginia, we eat what we make!). Together, we are a broad community of food nutrition, health and enjoyment.
We must remember that delighting the customer involves listening and continuous innovation – not resting on what delighted yesterday or maintenance of status quo. Continuous innovation allows us to work toward enriching our customers’ lives with our product by bringing them into the beef community.
Just to be clear, when I say ‘beef community’ here, I’m summarizing a rapidly occurring (much-needed) change in our relationship with our customers. Society has evolved (or, we have returned to this relationship, I haven’t quite decided which one it is), to a place where consumers seek a more direct relationship with the way food is produced and what we put into our bodies. Some producers in our community may not like the thought that our community wants to know about our food. But truly, every eater has an intimate relationship with food. Food is nourishment, family, laughter, love. When we are sad, we turn to food for comfort. When we celebrate, we eat. A certain dish brings back memories of loved ones, whom we cannot touch or hug. The aroma of grilling steak makes our bellies rumble and our neighbors gather. Too many among us long for the simple chance to eat something, every day. Food is the fabric of who we are.
As a beef community, we will not thrive unless we include both producers and eaters. Make no mistake, consumers, “eaters”, are very much part of what we have so often referred to (and I cringe when I say it) as the beef “industry’ (what an ugly concept, and word, to describe the relationship we have with the environment, and food!)
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~Socrates
Toward this end, we have to be very smart in our search to delight and include our customers in our beef experience. We have to innovate our animal care, environmental management, and product quality, form and usefulness with a careful eye toward the desires of our consumers – even if we don’t fully understand, or share, those desires.
At the same time, we must continue to educate consumers who are generations from a laying hen or the wonder-filled birth of a baby calf about how nature works, the sanctity and care involved in our work, and the symbiosis of the unique relationship between farmer and Earth.
To do this, we must think about beef’s total experience for today’s community. We have to do everything we can to demonstrate that we are adding value to the lives of people, here and elsewhere, through things we all care about – nutrition and health, interesting and attractive food experiences; taste that delights; and the demonstrable reassurance that beef is produced with careful stewardship of land, animal and environment.
“We need to reach that happy stage of our development when differences and diversity are not seen as sources of division and distrust, but of strength and inspiration.”