Annals of greenwashing: the Beef Checkoff
I could hardly believe this ad in the New York Times last Friday.
Cattle as a promoter of biodiversity?
My usual question: Who paid for this?
The only clue was the little checkmark and in tiny letters “Funded by beef farmers and ranchers.”
I did the thing with the QR code and went straight to www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com, the website of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, organizations paid for by per-animal levies imposed by USDA-sponsored checkoff programs.
acts as a catalyst for change and is designed to stimulate beef sales and consumption through a combination of initiatives including consumer advertising, research, public relations and new-product development.
The ad says:
Almost a third of U.S. land is too rocky or dry to be used for growing food crops. But cattle can graze on and regenerate that land, naturally protecting open space and conserving precious habitats and ecosystems.
Yes, they can, but participants in the Beef checkoff generally raise cattle in CAFOs (factory feedlots), the antithesis of grazing on and regenerating land.
The beef industry is under siege these days from people who care about health and the environment.
Instead of doing all it can to promote regenerative grazing, it uses public relations to deflect attention from how it really raises cattle.
Butterflies? Not a chance.
CORRECTION: Several readers have written to complain that I obviously know nothing about how cattle are raised. “You idiot,” they say (or imply), “cattle are raised on grass until the last few months of their lives.” Not only that, says one reader, but their grazing on grass produces ecological miracles (see, for example, this video.) That, however, still leaves them with months of finishing off on grains in feedlots, somehow not mentioned in the Beef Checkoff ad. It may be, as one reader tells me, that beef producers hate this system and hate paying for it with checkoff funds, but that’s how it works. Advocacy, anyone? In any case, I apologize for not including this iinformation n my original post.