Evelyn Greene – Boosting Women in the Beef Industry
Evelyn Greene, president of American National CattleWomen (ANCW), joins to discuss her work uplifting the beef industry, promoting sustainable beef production and encouraging more women to carve out careers in the agriculture industry.
The following is an edited transcript of the Ag Future podcast episode with Evelyn Greene hosted by Tom Martin. Click below to hear the full audio or listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Tom: Welcome to Ag Future, presented by Alltech. Join us as we explore the challenges and opportunities facing the global food supply chain and speak with experts working to support a Planet of Plenty.
I’m Tom Martin, and for this first interview in a series about the ruminant industry, I’m joined from Auburn, Alabama, by Evelyn Greene. Born and raised on a farm that included a beef operation in the largest beef-producing county in Alabama, she has been managing her family farm’s row-crop and cow/calf operations since 1982 and has, for 25 years, been an advocate and promoter of the beef industry.
Today, Evelyn is president of the agricultural grassroots organization American National CattleWomen, an organization with 27 state affiliates across the USA.
Welcome to Ag Future, Evelyn.
Evelyn: Thank you so much, Tom, for having me on today. It’s a pleasure to be with you.
Tom: And first, tell us about the organization that you lead.
Evelyn: Yes, sir. The American National CattleWomen is a voice for women who share a passion for the base community with the focus of beef promotion, education and legislation.
The American National CattleWomen’s association is a grassroots association with a tremendous history, with a shared passion and shared voice. We have a successful record of positively promoting beef and the beef industry. And in 1952, CattleWomen had the foresight to organize their individual messages into a strong national voice, which is now the American National CattleWomen’s association.
Tom: At Alltech, we talk often about our vision of a Planet of Plenty, our belief that agriculture has the greatest potential to shape the future of our planet. And I know that your organization also educates about and promotes the beef industry’s positive role and sustainability.
Can you share with us some of the ways American National CattleWomen is advocating for beef producers?
Evelyn: Yes sir, Tom, I would love to share with you my visions on that. With ANCW, the American CattleWomen, as president in 2020 and now, in 2021, the promotion of our next year is going to be about the generation. And my theme has been “beef for generations,” and this theme merges with the Alltech vision of a Planet of Plenty. And (for) CattleWomen, our goal is to set the stage for providing a healthy, wholesome and high-quality protein for a growing world population, utilizing beef as our foundation.
And beef contains high-quality protein with (the) essential amino acids needed for a growing human population. In addition, it is loaded with an abundance of nutrients that make our daily nutrient allowances. It is well-known for its supply of zinc and (the) essential minerals necessary to carry out our body processes and includes immunity as well as iron that is, essentially, especially needed for women, in our daily diet. Lean beef is a very wholesome, certainly tasty selection for feeding your family in this day and time.
Our association works extremely hard in providing factual information about the beef and (its place) in the diet. Additionally, we deliver quality programs for women working in the beef cattle industry. One of our programs that we have highlighted in this series (is) our WIRED program; it’s called Women in Ranching Education and Development.
And also, our K-12 programs for youth, and this plays a significant role in the development of our next generation. We focus on both youth and collegiate (students) in the training. We have a collegiate beef advocacy program, and the work that each state affiliate plays in their local youth programs played back into the factor of this for the American National CattleWomen in being an advocate for our industry.
Tom: You know, Evelyn, you can’t talk about anything these days without bringing the pandemic into it somehow. So, let’s bring that into the discussion.
Are strategies in play to get the meat-packing industry back in full force while, at the same time, providing a safe and healthy working environment for the people in the industry?
Evelyn: Tom, like all other major industries, the pandemic created chaos (for us) all across the U.S. Restaurants closed, reducing (the) consumption of beef while dining out. Consumers begin buying beef and meat from the grocery stores all over.
At the same time, when we transitioned to social distancing in our harvest facilities for the employees, safety broke our link in the supply chain. So, this link has been reconnected, and today, I believe it has made our supply chain, the beef supply chain, much stronger.
And before the pandemic, we would have never ambitioned a collapse like we have experienced. But today, all segments recognize the possibility and have become very innovative and forward-thinking to continue what we do best, and that’s to provide high-quality protein for the table.
The meat-packing harvest facilities were hit hard simply because of the volume of beef that must move through our facilities while maintaining a safe environment for the employees. So, our harvest facilities are essential, and their primary focus is to maintain worker safety. Without healthy employees, the supply chain stalls. And they are the bread and butter for our success.
They are working closely with the health officials, developing employee programs to meet employee needs during this crisis. And harvest facilities are now meeting the demands of harvesting cattle that are ready for the market and ready to eat.
Tom: Have you noticed any changes in beef consumption over this past year, during the pandemic?
Evelyn: Well, Tom, people must eat, so obviously, when grocery stores’ shelves were empty, people really struggled. But that was the same for all perishable foods.
And I believe it’s the greater emphasis we placed on how to manage the flow of perishable food, especially our meat products, in the future, as we problem-solve and evaluate the effective — and how it, how we handle this pandemic and have a food supply.
Tom: Meals at home: Is this an opportunity to get beef more present on the home menu?
Evelyn: Well, Tom, this is where the American National CattleWomen really feel at home. We have worked hard over the years to educate the family on safe and tasty food preparation at home. And in today’s lifestyle, this often includes quick meals for the family that provide high nutrition and nutrient-rich foods like beef.
We have connected with collegiate groups all across the U.S. to train these young minds in how to prepare a quick, easy, nutritional beef meal for their families and for their peers on campuses or even at home, while they had to be at home during COVID.
Tom: Of course, COVID has really impacted in-person gatherings, and I’m just wondering if that’s having a big impact on national cattle meetings this year going to go virtual, or if there are plans to eventually gather in-person.
Evelyn: As we’ve seen this past year, we have had (to) transition into virtual meetings. The face-to-face meetings are happening in some parts of the country, where it can be done safely.
Me and my husband recently attended the Missouri Cattlemen and Cattlewomen’s annual convention, and it was a face-to-face environment. We did practice the social distancing and wearing our masks and sanitization for our hands. But I’ve also traveled to (the) Oregon Cattlemen and Cattlewomen’s convention and also Denver for meetings, and it was safe. I see no problems. We just made sure that we were doing the recommended safety social distancing and wearing our masks and sanitizing our hands.
And I believe we will continue to use a hybrid model of meetings, with some being face-to-face and others still being virtually, as we continue to work through this pandemic. Certainly, the implementation of the vaccine in 2021 will definitely help return to us a new normal.
Tom: The new Biden administration is moving pretty aggressively against climate change, with a variety of approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And just today, the day of this interview, General Motors announced that they’re going all-electric by 2035. And I imagine by the time that this podcast reaches our listeners, others will have followed suit.
I wonder if you envision the beef industry supporting this drive to cut the American contribution to climate change.
Evelyn: Tom, you know, as we look forward, we are looking forward to working with President Biden and his administration as they recognize the positive role agriculture plays in addressing climate concerns.
U.S. cattle producers are advanced. They have advanced technologies and genetics in grazing management to make their herds more sustainable in the world. And I think we appreciate the outreach and opportunity that we’ll have to provide feedback and demonstrating what U.S. cattle producers are, and they are role models for the globe and for sustainable beef production.
And I think, today, it will be one of our benefits to be able to allow that, to be recognized as a positive role in agriculture. Most scientists recognize climate change as something that is very real. And I believe the beef industry and all of agriculture supports effective and realistic change that is balanced and well-thought-out.
But however, when we make changes, legislations, laws, without fully weighing all the ramifications of those changes, it is very possible to do more harm to our society and future societies. We must realize that every action has a reaction. And sometimes, I look at legislation that has been written, the laws that are made, and statements made by politicians on both sides of the aisle and just sort of kind of shake my head in amazement.
(Using) logical and common sense while weighing the scientific facts is the best way to go, Tom. I’ve always believed politics has, sometimes, has a place but really doesn’t have a place, if that makes sense.
Tom: [Laughs] It makes sense. It makes a lot (of sense) to everybody, I think.
Evelyn: Yes. And when I hear some of the suggestions in climate legislation that are related to greenhouse gases, I’ve always said, “You know, be careful what you ask for, or you might just get it, and the outcome will be devastating.”
So, we have to be careful what we ask for. And the reason, you know, this is, we have — even like today, with the cattle grazing on grasslands that are not, they say, is not conducive to any other parts of the greenhouse, and we have to be careful with that.
These are valuable assets to our industry in a sustainable future, and the ruminant animals consume food products that are not directly consumed by humans. So, therefore, that converted that product to (the) tasty, edible beef that we enjoy.
So, we transition to the production of large qualities, you know, alcohols from fuel in our vehicles in the 1990s, and this process generated millions (of) tons of corn distillers grains. And without animal production, this organic material would be put into waste dumps. So, there is another way of looking at how this will be beneficial to our agriculture in the beef industry.
Tom: There’s a twist, or a wrinkle, whatever you want to call it, coming from across the Atlantic in an interview — in our previous interview, actually — about the European Green Deal and how that’s bringing changes to farming in Europe.
We heard that there’s a push — in Europe, at least — toward changing diets to more plant-based versus meat-based. Do you see that happening in the U.S.?
Evelyn: This is a very interesting aspect, Tom, and I appreciate you bringing it to light, especially with me working with the beef industry. We must make sure that people continue to consume a healthy and nutritious, rich diet.
Much of the push for this in Europe, as well as the U.S. and other parts of the world, is based on false, opinionated and biased information, in my opinion. And I believe it was maybe, I believe, [Dr. Kim Polgreen] that said, “If we don’t eat beef, then the only role for cattle would be to (be) found in the zoo.” So there, again, if we don’t use cattle to convert non-edible products and possibly to put in a human diet, then we lose a tremendous opportunity to feed the world population.
I do believe that our generations to come (will) move into the future with food security, (and there) will be significant problems. And this doesn’t make sense, to take animal products off the plate. It doesn’t (make sense to eliminate an industry) that provides a nutrient-dense food when I face a depletion of food in the future.
If we thought about COVID and the creative problems that we have, we need to realize that there is no vaccine that will ever be able to overcome the devastation of food insecurity in the world. You know, the Green Deal is a great example of “be careful what you ask for”; the ramifications to society are great.
So there, again, I think we have to be mindful of what we are (serving) as nutritious, rich proteins in our diet, Tom.
Tom: Okay. Well, let’s come back to your organization and what it’s been about since 1952, really, and (you are) probably realizing it now in this era, and that is women taking more leadership roles in the beef industry. Is that happening?
Evelyn: Yes, sir. We’ve had women in agriculture all across the U.S., like you said earlier, in our 27 affiliate states. And women are playing many important roles in the support of food production and education for the global population. And women are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on their farms and ranches all over the country and the world.
United States Department of Agriculture statistics show that 44% of American farmers and ranchers are women, Tom. This — agriculture, in the process, has a $12.9-billion impact on our economy. Yes, women are very important in agriculture, I would say.
Many more women support the global food crisis through education and promotion. And the American National CattleWomen Association plays a critical role in both (the) production and promotion of the high-quality food protein of beef and cattle.
The American National CattleWomen is, you know — we’re strong, enthusiastic women, and we’ll stand behind what we believe in. And a lot of women run ag operations, and we’re proud to say that, Tom.
Tom: What is your best advice, Evelyn Greene, for a young woman who’s interested in pursuing a career in the beef industry?
Evelyn: This is always one of my favorite questions to answer. I love working with youth and getting their minds going about the industry and what it means.
My foundation, it was filled with American values, like hard work and (the) importance of family, loyalty to God and our country, and a rugged determination to persevere. And to me, the beef community is a snapshot of all things that have made America great. And I have ultimately succeeded in the face of all kinds of adversity with my foundation, from my family farm, and that is how I decided to work in the beef industry.
But a few pointers I always like to give would be to pursue an agriculture or animal science, meat science or business degree. Have some hands-on (experience in the) nature of instruction, and the need for networking as a skill, which then creates opportunity for future research.
Develop a professional network. That’s very important. And I always say, “Do not box or step into your home county or home state; be ready and available to seek opportunity all over the United States.”
Another aspect I always like to tell them (is) if you love what you do, then you will always want to go to work. And it is an amazing and rewarding adventure to be working with the Cattlewomen in this day and time.
Tom: That’s Evelyn Green. She is president of the agricultural grassroots organization American National CattleWomen, and she talks with us from Auburn, Alabama.
Thank you, Evelyn.
Evelyn: Thank you, Tom. It was a pleasure being on today.
Tom: Join us for the rest of the series as we reflect on how the agriculture industry adapted in 2020 and speak with experts on what’s in store for agri-food in 2021.
Thank you for joining us. Be sure to subscribe to Ag Future wherever you listen to podcasts.