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.