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Consumers will thank you for embracing inclusion

Equality, inclusion and diversity (EID) are being embraced throughout society – and where they’re not, you have to stop and wonder why.

For example, in Saskatchewan, members of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association rejected a resolution at their annual general meeting last week calling for the organization’s name to be changed to something more inclusive.

No alternative name suggestion was put forward as part of the resolution.

But if precedents in other provinces are any indication – for example, Ontario Beef, Alberta Beef Producers, Chicken Farmers of Canada – the members might have settled on something as gender neutral and inclusive as Saskatchewan Beef.

Such names push the right buttons for EID.

And very importantly, they draw consumers’ focus on the final product, rather than on the animal itself.  

One problem with the Saskatchewan resolution was procedural. The Western Producer farm newspaper reported that the mover, Ross Macdonald, was well intentioned.

“I just think it’s appropriate, that we’ve got a pretty diverse organization and the term cattlemen definitely doesn’t fairly represent what goes on in our house and I’m pretty sure a lot of houses that are associated with this organization,” he said.

Sounds good. But he should have made a resolution to study changing the name, not actually do it on the spot…and especially, with no alternative provided. Big mistake. It didn’t have to be done right away.

Another problem is that the refusal makes Saskatchewan beef producers look out of step – and they’re not. Saskatchewan is home to some of the most forward-thinking beef producers in Canada. Raising beef cattle is a huge part of the province’s heritage. Farmers and ranchers there produce about 20 per cent of Canada’s beef. They’re tuned into production, research, marketing, everything you’d expect from leaders.  

Here’s another rub. After beef animals that are born on the prairies reach a certain age and weight, they’re shipped to Ontario to finish growing before being processed and sold as beef here. It’s Canada’s biggest market by far, with total sales at food stores reaching about $32 billion a year.

So that means what Ontario consumers think about issues – animal welfare, nutrition, EID, whatever affects sales—should matter to anyone who sells to them, from wherever.

That kind of awareness is why I urge communications students to follow issues. You can be the best food producer in the world, but if you aren’t tuned into the issues of the day, you are doing yourself a disservice and potentially losing markets.

Unfortunately, as the Producer reported, the cattlemen’s past-chair Rick Toney missed that point. He’s reported to have said the term “cattlemen” doesn’t refer to men.

In his mind, it’s a heritage name, one that’s been used for a long time and shouldn’t change.

“We’re all over this damn liberal shit,” the Producer reported him saying. “We’re being crazy here… monkeying around (and) all this expense for nothing is a bunch of garbage in my mind.”

Perhaps some of the Washington Redskins’ and Edmonton Eskimos’ supporters thought people were just “monkeying around” too, insisting on name changes. Same with executives at Chrysler, who are being pressured for EID reasons to drop the name Cherokee from their popular Jeep.

I saw those same executives claim the Indigenous names they’re using have a heritage value and that they honour those associated with their origins.

But society’s not buying it. More than ever, names matter.

Past-chair Toney is right about one thing: there’s a big financial cost to a name change.

However, that’s the cost of doing business, especially business you want to keep.

Consider how Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC when fried food became associated with health problems. And how about Dunkin’ Donuts? Just call the company Dunkin’ now…doughnuts are a treat, but these days, how many people order a doughnut with their coffee? The name is passé.

And the same goes for “cattlemen.”The modern interpretation of the term, at least to many of their customers, is men producing cattle. Not farm or ranch families, and certainly not women. Men.

And it’s no longer acceptable.

So c’mon, Saskatchewan cattlemen, be like Blue Ribbon Sports…which in 1978, became Nike. Just do it. Changing with the times is perfectly fine.

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1 comment
  1. Comment is by Toney . Have you ever checked the meaning of cattleman ? It is a person who raises cattle or works with cattle . Sorry it is not gender specific . What is the meaning of amen ? As I know it it means so be it and not gender spastic . Just so happens I have some Cherokee blood in my veins as does my souse . I do not find it offensive , if it is used to describe a quality vehicle. As a matter of fact I’m honoured. The use of red skins and chiefs honours my heritage . If you checked the population at the meeting you would find by the count of the votes that we could have left all the men out of it and the female vote would have defeated the motion . Check how our Young Cattlemen’s Association feels . They are mostly female . My spouse and many other women are honoured to be called good cattlemen . Just ask the women in the industry . From what I hear the majority feel the name is good . Do we live in a democracy ? I sure hope so .
    If you are wondering how I treat women in our industry , ask the lady who seconded the motion how I received her when she came on our board a while back . I think you will find I’m very inclusive . But my personal impression, that I’m tired of this liberal shit , means I’m tired of changing names for no reason . As well tired about it causing discrimination. Example being we need to have our board half women and half men. All this does is get someone a seat because of their gender which could work to push ether gender out of a spot . We would not just choose the best person for the job .
    If you were to say I could have phrased liberal shit a little better your probably right . Just proves I’m human ( there is that man thing again ) and do make mistakes .
    Thanks for reading

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