Nutrition advice, dietary recommendations, and serving suggestions are recommendations nutrition professionals will make in their career. Now, more than ever, those insights can be influenced by one’s knowledge of how food is grown and raised. With grant funds and support from the Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC), the Arizona Beef Council (ABC) works with dietetic intern programs from across the state to provide students the opportunity to see the beef community on a tour from Gate to Plate. The ABC and IBIC see great value in reaching these dietetic interns before they enter the work force as registered dietitians as their courses often skip over beef nutrition and its role in a healthy diet.
This year’s tour was much different than in the past due to the COVID pandemic. Traditionally, a bus full of dietetic interns travels from a ranch to a feed yard with educational sessions on beef’s nutrition and media skills presented throughout the day. This year, it was done virtually.
Students from the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University joined ABC staff on February 5, 2021 for a tour of the Quarter Circle U Ranch located in the Superstition Mountains, a cow-calf ranch raising primarily angus cattle. Due to unreliable cell phone service, a prerecorded video was shown while Dr. Chuck Backus, ranch partner, participated live and spoke about the lifecycle, handling, breeding, branding, and vaccinating of the cattle at this ranch as the video was played. This tour was followed by a nutrition presentation from Caitlin Mondelli, RD, with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, who shared how beef can be incorporated into a healthy diet and provided the latest nutrition research as supporting evidence.
Two weeks later, the students again met on Zoom for a live tour with Bass Aja at Pinal Feeding Co. in Maricopa, Arizona. This tour showcased the incredible amount of science that goes into feeding cattle to ensure their health and raising a high-quality beef product. Following the live tour, a presentation with Paul Dybedahl, of the NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, shared techniques for using social media to showcase nutrition information along with beef nutrition messages. This type of training allows students to learn an additional skill they can use in their future careers, while remembering beef. In normal years, participants practice their skills together in-person. This year, students were invited to participate in a virtual contest. Armed with $25 gift cards to their local grocery stores, the students purchased ingredients for a cooking demo. Implementing their new social media video skills from the tour, students submitted clever and entertaining food demonstrations that were judged and awarded prizes for first through third place.
The goal of these tours, whether in person or virtual, is to help these future health and diet influencers be confident in beef’s beneficial nutrition and in recommending beef to their future clients. Pre and post tour surveys measure the effectiveness in reaching that goal. When asked what they would remember from the tour, one participant said, “How much care goes into feeding them a balanced diet at both stages of their life (pre-feed lot and at the feed lot) and how much the cattle ranchers and people who run the facility really care about their jobs, the cattle and running a clean and well-maintained facility.” When asked about what they will remember regarding beef and human nutrition one shared, “Beef has such a variety of micronutrients and can fit into a healthy diet so well.”
This tour and others like it are made possible with funding from a partnership with IBIC. "Connecting ranchers with future dieticians and health professionals continues to build common ground between ranchers and key opinion leaders who will impact thousands of consumers over the lifespan of their careers,” Rex Hoppes, IBIC Executive Director, noted. "The Gate to Plate tour continues to be a success story for the Arizona Beef Council and we look forward to working with their team to drive beef demand in the future."
About the Iowa Beef Industry Council: The Iowa Beef Industry Council is funded by the $1-per-head National Beef Checkoff Program and the $0.50-per-head Iowa State Beef Checkoff. Checkoff dollars are invested in beef promotion, consumer information, research, industry information and foreign market development, all with the purpose of strengthening beef demand. For more information, visit www.iabeef.org.