This past fall I attended the Nebraska Youth Beef Leadership Symposium. I spent the weekend learning about the beef industry and how to share facts and knowledge with the consumer. We talked to Industry leaders and learned from the professors at the university.
Then, we put our knowledge to the test. We went to a grocery store in the middle of Lincoln where we were asked to talk to customers and promote the products of the Industry. I did not know what I was getting myself into, but what I learned from the experience is something that I will never forget.
When we got off the bus, my group and I set up a diagram that showed the different primal and commercial cuts of beef near the meat counter. Once we felt ready after reviewing some talking points, I decided I would be the first one to start up a conversation. I walked up to a woman looking at deals and introduced myself, “Hi my name is Jennifer, what are you out shopping for today?” I thought I was ready and had it all planned out until I realized that she was looking at pork chops instead of steaks. It became apparent that she wouldn’t have too many questions on steak because that wasn’t on her grocery list. This first conversation taught me that sometimes the consumer doesn’t want what you are trying to sell them and that is ok. What’s not ok is them not liking a product because of misinformation.
When the next customer that happened upon our area, I was ready. I even made sure they were looking at steaks. I walked up to them and introduced myself, then asked them a question. “Do you have any questions or concerns about the steaks that you are buying today?” When they responded that they didn’t have any questions and that they had always been comfortable with what they were going to purchase, I didn’t know what to say. Looking back, I should’ve said, “thank you”. Thank you for trusting farmers to put out quality beef that is safely produced and enjoyable for your family. This consumer taught me that we should not only be educating consumers but also thanking them, because if they didn’t like what we were selling, then we would struggle to find ways to feed the world on chicken nuggets and salads alone.
These consumers didn’t have to talk or interact with me; however, I am lucky they did, or I would not have been able to have experiences I did. I learned so much from this and plan to take this knowledge and apply it when I want to advocate for the agriculture industry. As agriculture advocates, we are always asked, what can we teach the consumers? However, before we start teaching, we need to learn what they want to be informed on. Otherwise, you could end up trying to sell steaks to someone who has pork chops on their shopping lists.
Jennifer Sedlacek’s passion for agriculture comes from spending summers at her uncle’s and grandparent’s farm. She is an FFA office in her school’s FFA chapter and enjoys showing cattle in 4-H. She wants to continue to learn about Nebraska’s number one industry and talk with consumers about how farmers feed the word.