BRIDGING THE GAP
The last couple of weeks have most certainly been stressful, for both consumers and producers.
With schools closed, restaurants and bars forcibly shut down and the CDC recommending gatherings of 50 people or more to be cancelled, the U.S. is essentially on lock-down as we wait to see how far reaching COVID-19 will be.
I recently received a phone call from a concerned beef producer back in South Dakota. She had seen a meme on Facebook that included a photo of the bovine rotavirus-coronavirus vaccine alongside a steak, and she asked me if I would have time to respond to set the record straight.
The meme read, “Since cattle in the U.S. are regularly vaccinated for the coronavirus, that basically means if you frequently eat beef you’re most likely immune to the virus! Spread the word! We should be stockpiling steaks right now people!”
The last time I checked, the meme had been shared hundreds of times, and there were many copycat versions getting attention, as well. It was largely being shared by other beef producers who got a chuckle out of what I’m sure was meant as a light-hearted joke.
Let’s face it — this pandemic is wreaking emotional, physical and economic havoc on our lives, and so if cracking jokes on social media helps to alleviate the stress and tension, I’m all for it.
However, this meme had me concerned because while I know it was meant for the beef producer audience, from a consumers’ standpoint, what does this meme imply?
I’ll lay it out for you — it implies that our beef contains traces of vaccines and antibiotics. What a dangerous, misleading piece of inaccurate information that if used in the wrong hands (remember that PETA is a shareholder of Facebook), this could be used against our industry. Consumers, who are already worried about feeding their families during this pandemic, might now have red flags raised because of this meme.
Instead of making a joke about our industry, during this time where a virus is taking over the world, I want consumers to think about the immunity-boosting benefits of beef. Here’s how I responded:
“Hey folks! I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy right now during the COVID-19 pandemic!
“As we wade through the many conflicting social media posts and articles on this topic, you may have come across a meme meant as a joke about the coronavirus and beef. While I’m certain it was meant as just a light-hearted conversation piece, the message is quite misleading and dangerous.
“At a time where our world is very concerned about this issue, I urge every producer to provide factual, grounded information that can help us all remain safe, healthy and informed about the foods we eat.
“As a ranching mom, I want everyone to know that beef is a SAFE, wholesome food for your family to enjoy! It’s a great source of 10 essential nutrients, including zinc, iron and protein! Did you know that the zinc found in beef boosts our immunity to help our bodies fight off the cold and flu? Beef is truly my multi-vitamin!
“If you’re confused by this meme that’s floating around about vaccine use in the beef industry, let me be abundantly clear — high-quality beef begins with high-quality care!
“When administering antibiotics or vaccines, beef producers follow product label directions or the prescription provided by their trusted veterinarian, meaning they adhere to usage guidelines. And science-based testing by the USDA FSIS ensures that the meat we eat is safe, thanks in part to the tireless efforts of producers to observe withdrawal instructions.
“Simply stated, there are no trace antibiotics or vaccines in beef, EVER! If you have concerns or questions, please, ask a rancher, and we’ll be happy to help!
“So my friends — please, wash your hands, be safe out there, check on your friends and neighbors, and eat beef to boost your immune system! #EatBeefForYourHealth”
The agricultural community will certainly be in the spotlight in the weeks to come. After all, in a pandemic when everything shuts down, guess what? Everyone still needs to eat. This will highlight the importance of farming and ranching and what we do in our rural communities to provide food, fuel and fiber for the world.
Let’s take advantage of this opportunity by sharing positive stories, uplifting messages and accurate, factual information. Let’s be a resource of calm, commonsense and science during a time where this is much confusion and uncertainty.