Twenty Angus producers from across the U.S. explored various segments of the beef industry May 31-June 3, 2009, during the second annual Beef Leaders Institute (BLI), hosted by the American Angus Association® and funded through the educational efforts of the Angus Foundation. Tours, presentations from industry experts and interaction with staff from the Association along with networking opportunities allowed an in-depth look of the entire beef production sector.
The event is designed to identify active Association members ages 25-45 who are leaders in the beef industry, and expose them to all aspects of the industry from feeding, packing, processing, retail and distribution. Participants are selected based on application, and BLI is limited to 20 people to allow for tours and discussion.
Tours of the Association and Angus Productions Inc. (API) along with interactive sessions that highlighted the Association departments and its entities kicked off this year's activities. Participants were able to learn more about the functions of the Association, API, Certified Angus Beef (CAB) LLC, Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI) and the Angus Foundation while interacting with the employees.
Engaging case studies were lead by industry experts in the areas of consumerism and cattle feeding. Tom Field, executive director of producer education for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, challenged the beef producers to become more aware of what the average consumer faces at the meat counter by assigning them a beef purchasing project prior to BLI. Each producer had to purchase a cut of beef, evaluate the meat counter and beef packaging and prepare the beef.
Tom Brink, senior vice president and chief risk officer for JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, discussed breaking even and capturing the most profit while feeding cattle and walked the group through several marketing grids.
A leadership and goal-setting session was added to BLI, allowing the participants to set goals for their own involvement in the beef industry as well as the BLI. In addition, a nightly discussion was held about various current topics in the industry.
Two days of intense tours followed the discussions at the Association offices. Participants toured Tyson's Dakota City, Neb., plant where members from the senior management team provided tours and answered questions about processing beef.
Steve McPherson, Snow Camp, N.C., said the Tyson tour was his BLI highlight. “This was my first tour of a processing plant, and I have to admit, I was in awe. A close second would have to be the attendees themselves. I have really enjoyed getting to know them.”
The tour then stopped at Whole Foods Market in Omaha, Neb. Marketing Manager Maria Watts told the group that Whole Foods is focused on providing consumers high quality foods as she toured them through the store's produce, meat, grocery, and deli aisles.
“We want to provide the highest quality, most nutritious products to our customers,” she said, as she pointed out the naturally grown and organic products the store chain is known for.
A visit to Gregory Feedlot, Tabor, Iowa, completed the tours for the first day. Jim Gregory, owner, and David Trowbridge, manager, welcomed the group. The CAB-licensed feedlot, focused on feeding genetically superior cattle.
Later that evening, Mark Allan, associate director, global technical services with Pfizer Animal Genetics, presented information on the future of genomic enabled selection in the beef industry.
The final day of tours included four stops. The first was Cargill's Value Added Meat further processing plant in Nebraska City, Neb., which produces deli meats and products for food service outlets. The next stop, Sysco Lincoln, in Lincoln, Neb., gave the cattle producers an overview of a large warehouse and distribution center. Sysco Lincoln is the top distributor of CAB value-added products.
An afternoon stop at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) included presentations about identifying markers for recessive traits, carcass instrument grading and an update on the MARC germplasm evaluation and 2,000 bull project. In addition, the group toured the feed efficiency study pens.
A driving tour of Gottsch Cattle Company near Red Cloud, Neb., showcased the 49,000 head feedlot and its feed mill. Mike Danehey provided information about the lot while the bus drove through its facilities.
After nearly 900 miles and two and one-half days in a bus, friendships were formed, perspectives were gained and all walked away with greater understanding of the industry that the Association members have a passion for.
“It really hit home that myself and others in attendance at BLI truly are the next generation of leaders,” says Keith Shifflett, Scottsville, Va., “That simple realization gives me more confidence and encourages me to be a better steward for the Angus breed.”
Myron Kennedy, Brookville, Md., agrees. “BLI broadens your scope on the industry on a variety of topics, therefore I see it as my duty to pass along what I have picked up to Association members and producers back home. With this approach in mind, it will hopefully unify and strengthen us.”
Association members selected to represent the Association this year include: Bo Bevis, Winnett, Mont.; Chad Campbell, Micanopy, Fla.; Kyle Conley, Perkins, Okla.; Lake Elliott, Adams, Tenn.; Robert Groom, Lyons, N.Y.; Ron Hinrichsen, Westmoreland, Kan.; Davis Holder, Gamaliel, Ky.; Myron Kennedy, Brookville, Md.; Kevin Kleinman, Wentworth, Mo.; Landi McFarland, Ellston, Iowa; Andrew McPeake, Arnoldsville, Ga.; Steve McPherson, Snow Camp, N.C.; Cody Sankey, East Lansing, Mich.; Keith Shifflett, Scottsville, Va.; Steve Stratford, Pratt, Kansas; Jennifer Svoboda, Sargent, Neb.; Ryan Sweeney, Fairmont, Okla.; Jerry Theis, Leavenworth, Kansas; Byron Tuckwiller, Lewisburg, W.V.; and James Young, Forest, Va.