cattle with identification tags

Frost returns to Nebraska

Whether in sports or the cattle industry, one person can make a huge difference.

No, not the kind of frost that is on the pumpkins in the early mornings of November, but the kind that will take that Husker football team and turn it around from the pumpkin that it has become to the chariot that it once was.

For those who follow collegiate football, you know what I mean.

For those who don’t, Frost was the last quarterback to play for the great coach and greater man, Tom Osborne. He was also the last quarterback to lead a Husker team to Nebraska’s last national championship almost exactly 20 years ago.

He is also a native son who was a classmate of my daughter’s in grade school, so I have followed his career with more than a casual interest.

He will turn the bad mouthers around, bring in the naysayers, pump up the donors and keep that record string of stadium sellouts intact.

In short, he is a man who could lead Husker Nation to follow him like Saint Patrick led the snakes of Ireland into the North Atlantic Sea.

(Yes, for transparency, I have some Irish blood in me, and the school Scott Frost and my daughter shared was in O’Neill, Irish capital of Nebraska.)

This is what the beef industry needs -- a savior that can counter all the negatives we are hearing and seeing about the industry.

Old friend Chuck Jolley blessed these pages a few days ago with his commentary labeled “Consider the Cow”. He challenged those that blame the thinning of the ozone layer on cattle emissions rather than car emissions. 

I loved it. It was spot on. But who reads it that might have their minds changed? Not very many.

He described the image of America as a cattleman on a horse with a six shooter strapped to his leg. He is right. After all, when I was a boy playing in our yard in Nebraska, we weren’t playing pigboys and indians; it was cowboys and indians all the way.

The cattlemen settled the wild, wild West. They can and should be proud of that fact.

He also talked about rural Nebraska, where the cows greatly outnumber humans, and how the air is pristine, and then talked about the Beijing air problems.

When I was at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it routinely rotated some of its top foreign diplomats in and out of China to avoid the “Beijing cough.”

The chickens are being applauded (for the most part) for going antibiotic-free whenever possible. It has been a tough row to hoe but many are getting there.

The pigs are coming along, albeit it a bit slower. Problems with things like weaning I hear.

The non-integrated beef industry is much slower to respond to consumer desires, and I guess that goes along with that image of Hoss Cartwright sitting on his horse with his six-shooter handy. Hoss was not easily moved to action, nor persuaded to think differently.

I guess part of the problem with reducing antibiotic use in cattle goes along with the simple facts that calves aren’t hatched from an egg, they have to go through a weaning process. They must face the rigors of a Nebraska or Kansas winter and they certainly cannot be sent to market in 42 short days.

Frost won’t turn Nebraska around overnight, but when he speaks his words will be quoted and believed even if he can’t quite walk on water -- yet.

Cattlemen, you need to find a voice that will resonate across this country, and will be taken at face value and trusted.

You need to get out of your animal agriculture echo chamber and engage the consumer. You need to listen to them, hear their concerns, find out what is valid and what is not and find a way to help them come to an educated decision about what protein to buy to serve their children.

Other protein products are doing that in spades, and they are changing mindsets.

Beef is not what is usually for dinner any more.

Those disparagers that do not want us to slaughter animals for human consumption won’t change their minds but a huge majority that do want to eat animal protein are having their minds influenced by electronic media that is just full of misleading information, much of it intentionally posted.

They are also being misled by an industry that labels products to imply theirs are better and/or safer than their competitors. 

What poultry company does NOT put “No Hormones Added” or “All Natural” on their label; implying that hormones used in cattle production must present a danger to that little pre-pubescent child and that raising cattle employs “unnatural” conditions.

What is more natural: Mama cow dropping a new born calf in the Sandhills of Nebraska, or raising 60,000 broilers in a grow out facility?

How about the Bison industry that advertises both NO hormones and NO antibiotics, both of which would be forbidden practices, of course, but implies bison meat is safer than beef steak because of those banned additives.

Then there is your own industry, with its bad actors that provide conditions that allows undercover videos be taken of old, spent, downer dairy cattle being drug by chains to the knock box without proper inspection.

The response?

Well, yeah, we did it, but we didn’t do it very often.

You just can’t put a positive spin on that one.

By the way, Frost took a Central Florida University team that went 0-12 in 2015 to a 13-0 record and conference championship and 14th national ranking in 2017 and was just named Collegiate Football Coach of the Year.

One person can make a huge difference. Now go find that person and turn this chuckwagon around.

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