2019 YCC Confernce - Blake McDonald

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2019 YCC Confernce - Blake McDonald

By Blake McDonald, Columbia, MO.                   |                             

I was fortunate enough to attend the 2019 Young Cattlemen’s Conference (YCC) on behalf of the American Simmental Association. YCC is a tour encompassing every segment of the beef industry over a 10-day period. Sixty young cattlemen and women met in Denver, Colorado, and embarked on our journey.   

The first day began in the home office of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) where we became acquainted with NCBA staff and our fellow YCC members. We spent the morning learning about the structure of NCBA, what they are doing as an organization, and how it is beneficial to us as producers. While at the NCBA office, our lunches were prepared in-house following recipes found on the checkoff-funded website, beefitswhatsfordinner.com, and they were delicious! After lunch, we received a market outlook from the folks at CattleFax and listened to representatives from Cargill and Albertsons-Safeway, a grocery store chain, who spoke about the beef business from a retailer perspective.  We finished our first day with an NCBA office tour and steak fry. On day two we got up bright and early and boarded a bus to Greeley, CO.  The first stop on the trip to Greeley was a tour of the JBS packing plant. The plant was quite impressive to see. With a daily capacity of 5,500 head, the process was very fastpaced and efficient. After leaving the plant, we toured Five Rivers’ Kuner Feedyard. With a one-time capacity of 100,000 head, the Kuner lot and mill were quite the operation. The sheer size and scope of both the packing facility and feed yard was something that one has to see in person to appreciate.  We finished the day with a panel discussion with the JBS executive team. The JBS headquarters in Greeley is an impressive facility and was a great place to discuss some of the hot topics of the beef industry with a group of individuals that most producers wouldn’t normally have access to. On our last full day in Denver, we were back at the NCBA headquarters learning about the checkoff and its benefits to us as producers. On our way to the airport, we toured a Safeway grocery store to gain a better understanding of the retail side of the beef business. 

Upon our arrival to Chicago, we settled into our hotel and then had some authentic deep-dish pizza. Breakfast the next morning was provided by Hillshire Farms/Tyson at their Chicago office. Their representatives went in-depth as to how they were marketing beef on a retail level and what directions they thought those markets were heading. After breakfast, we heard from Hillshire Farms and Tyson representatives about how they were marketing beef and what new avenues they were exploring to market beef. Our next stop was McDonald’s Global Headquarters, quite an impressive facility! It was encouraging to see how knowledgeable and supportive the McDonald’s team was of the beef industry. Topics of discussion ranged from beef procurement to menu changes to sustainability and everything in between. After presentations, we were escorted to the official test kitchen of McDonald’s where we prepared our own quarter pounders made with fresh beef for lunch. We went to OSI Industries after lunch. OSI Industries is one of the world’s largest makers of hamburger patties and provides a large portion of McDonald’s fresh and frozen hamburger patties. We were able to take a tour of their facility where food safety and quality control was second-to-none.

Our first morning in D.C., we were greeted by NCBA staff.  We covered issues that cattle producers were facing across the nation and prepared ourselves for the next day’s upcoming visits on Capitol Hill.  Two fellow Missourians and I met with several of our state’s representatives and senators.  I had never done any lobbying before; it was an experience that I will not soon forget.  Though I wouldn’t want to be on Capitol Hill every day, my time there made me appreciate those that do have a presence on the Hill and keep our senators and representatives informed on our industry.  As we went from office to office, it was very evident that NCBA staff has done an excellent job educating and keeping the political staff up-to-date with any and all issues affecting beef producers.     

All-in-all, YCC was a great experience.  I would encourage anyone who gets the opportunity to attend to do so.  All of the stops over the course of the tour were educational and beneficial to anyone involved in the beef business, no matter what facet of the industry.  For me, the greatest value obtained from YCC did not come from a particular tour stop or speaker, rather the network formed with my peers.  Our group consisted of people from coast to coast that was involved in all sectors of the beef industry.  Though we all do things a little differently, everyone shared the same objective of producing the best product that we are able to. To spend 10 days with so many future-minded, critical-thinking, progressive individuals who all had expertise in their own areas of the beef industry is an opportunity that does not come about often and I am certainly thankful to have been able to experience it.  Even with our busy schedules, the YCC class of 2019 did manage to find time for some extracurricular fun. Soon after becoming acquainted with each other, we had nicknames and poked fun at one another like we had known each other for years. YCC laid the foundation for friendships that I am certain will last. It has been enjoyable keeping up with each other since the trip and learning about what each of us do on a daily basis.  My sincere thanks go to Chip Kemp and the American Simmental Association for providing me the opportunity to attend YCC. After my time with 60 sharp, young minds in the beef business, I can assure you all that our industry is in good hands! 

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