Colin Woodall had no illusions when he assumed the position of chief executive of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), writes John Wilkes.
The challenge is to ‘be more vocal and shoot back’ at detractors of the US beef industry.
Mr Woodall has been with NCBA for 15 years.
He previously served as senior vice-president of government affairs and managed its Washington DC Office.
Mr Woodall is eager to take on cellcultured ‘fake meat’ companies, environmental groups and a sceptical nutritionist community; all of which he says ‘disparage our product’.
NCBA research and data shows distinct benefits of beef production and consumption, but Mr Woodall said he believed this message had not been sufficiently broadcasted.
He said: “We have sometimes struggled to package it in a way the consumer can easily digest.”
Mr Woodall commends the efforts by US producers to ensure a sustainable future for the beef industry, despite increased pressure from various groups and proponents of alternative protein.
He added: “We are producing the same amount of beef as we did in 1977 but with one-third fewer cattle.
“We have just not done that good a job talking about what is actually going on in the countryside.”
The focus was on ‘fake meat’.
Mr Woodall said the NCBA welcomed product oversight by the US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. However, he believed the rapid rise of plant-based products as competitors to beef had caught many off guard.
This prompted NCBA to challenge plant-based meat alternative companies, such as Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger’s use of nomenclature in its effort to protect ‘beef’.
Mr Woodall also understood the contentious nature of beef produced using hormones and growth promoters in the UK.
He said he strongly believed ‘discussion based on real science, not fear and emotion’, was warranted because there was a ‘tremendous opportunity’ for trade between the UK and USA post Brexit.
He sought to highlight NCBA support for the 2013 BSE Comprehensive Rule (BCR) – a stepping stone which allowed more US beef imports. For years BSE was a major obstacle for export to the US from countries affected by the crisis.
Under BCR, the Republic of Ireland has had access to the US beef market since 2015. The UK is currently working with US government inspectors on access.
Explaining more about NCBA’s support of BCR, Mr Woodall said: “We did so because science supports it, even though it might mean more competition.
“I believe in ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.”