Overcoming reputational challenges in the red meat sector

Unsurprisingly, as an agricultural agency, the team are massive supporters of our livestock industry and enthusiastic meat eaters. However, having previously spent seven years at a food and drink comms agency, I’m fully versed in the sizeable marketing budgets that the plant-based sector frequently wields.

Rising to meet the challenge of plant-based
Over the past few years, many FMCG businesses have been tirelessly pushing veganism onto the political and social agenda for their own commercial gain. Big plant-based brand campaigns continue to promote often highly-processed products while misguiding the public about the value and benefits of going meat and dairy free.

Many of our clients are challenged with tackling this growing obstacle. Therefore, it was heartening to hear Jilly Greed from Ladies In Beef talking on the latest episode of the AFCC about how Great British Beef Week (GBBW21) is working to turn the tables, without resorting to ‘vegan-bashing’.

After all, personal choice is a wonderful thing and often a much more complex process than a binary black and white position of eating meat or not. In my opinion, ‘less and better quality’ is a far more satisfying and balanced solution than ‘none at all’.

Pushing a sustainable agenda
From a comms perspective, this year’s GBBW has focused on sustainable farming. It’s a shrewd tactic that plays to the current zeitgeist, as well as fuelling rising beef sales.

During lockdown, our purchasing and cooking habits have changed dramatically. There’s been a resurgence of support for our wonderful butchers and farm shops. Consumers now have a greater interest in where and how their food is produced. Savvy independent retailers are enthusiastically telling eager customers their own farm to fork story, particularly regarding grass-fed, low-input, naturally reared beef that adopt sustainable land management practices.

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Environmentally Friendly beef

The impact of COVID-19 on consumers habits

Our collective experience since March 2020 has also had a huge impact on how we view the world around us, as well as the food we eat. I couldn’t put it any better than Jilly’s summary:

"This period in our lives, where we have been able to experience the outdoors, be with nature and see that its very connected, it comes right back to the food. You eat the view. You savour it in the flavour of what’s been produced on the land.”

Showcasing environmentally friendly beef
We all want to play our part in tackling climate change and the beef sector has a valuable role in being part of the solution.

Consumers want to know that farmers are adapting to achieve a target of net zero. Pushing the positive message about environmental sustainability is really helping to change public perceptions.

There is a real ground swell of organisations getting behind the sector which have included the Eat Balanced campaign run by AHDB and Regenuary.

Climate change

The importance of evidence based comms

To deliver the cut through required has demanded a factual, evidence-based showcase of the industry.

Ladies In Beef have made good use of their network of members, producing case studies and social media content that reflects real farmer attitudes, as well as, the steps that they’re making to effect positive change in their production from an environmental perspective.

This is something that Pinstone Account Director and beef farmer, Becky Morgan also champions in her blog which highlights the opportunity for the sector to tell the real story about the realities of beef production. all-year-round.

Channels that have worked particularly well for re-educating consumer have been science-based documentaries such as Kiss the Ground and Sacred Cow. Both films have shown consumers a much more detailed picture by stating the case for better meat.

GBBF also developed a series of infographics, included data from CIEL’s Industry Report: Net Zero Carbon and UK Livestock which highlighted that greenhouse gas emission from British beef are 52% lower than the global average. It demonstrates a multi-channel approach that truly sets out to deliver voices and scientific facts that can be trusted.

As Jilly explained, British Beef deserves the recognition it’s due as an “established, iconic product with a rich heritage” which is why I’ll definitely be celebrating the sector with a big roast of British beef and all the trimmings. I hope you’ll do the same. Bon appetit!