By Will Verboven, Contributing Editor

Many folks connected to the cattle industry in Canada were unaware the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) was having an identity crisis. Having watched this venerable organization evolve over the past 40 years, they have grown to be well run by competent managers and staff who are focused on their mandate to serve the interests of Canadian cattle producers.

The CCA is renowned as one of the most influential lobbying and advocacy organizations in our national capital, Ottawa. I am not sure why any organization would want to alter such a successful track record. Notwithstanding, the CCA intends to spend a whopping $875,000 (that’s big money up here) over the next three years, rebranding itself. One ponders what massive policy failure has precipitated this sudden need for the CCA to put everything on the table.

Some CCA and industry spokespeople have alluded to the gender political incorrectness of the name “cattlemen.” If that’s such a big deal, then just get on the trendy cancel bandwagon and change it to Canada Cattle Federation or Canadian Cattle Producers – Producteurs Bovins Canadiens, although that may be sexist in French. Better yet, how about a catchy new name like Team Cattle Canada, or All Cattle/All Canada/All Producers, or Society of Canadian Caring Bovine Managers.

I jest, but with $875,000 at stake, I suspect agriculture-connected advertising and public relation firms are drooling at the prospect of roping in a lucrative contract to create a new public image and name for the CCA. Ad agency folks will invariably develop a politically correct, gender-neutral, bilingual, environmentally respectful, socially progressive new name and image for the CCA. I suspect most folks are getting used to these inevitable expedient name-washing exercises that expunge the alleged insufferable intents of historic names like “cattlemen.”

What should be of real concern are the sweeping comments made by industry folks that the CCA, the cattle industry, producers and beef need to be rebranded to meet the whims and presumptions of consumers and mindless machinations of governments. Experience should tell most organizations that it’s impossible to be everything to everybody.

The CCA’s evolution shows that they realized that different industry needs and perspectives could be addressed. The old Beef Information Centre and Canada Beef Export Federation were created and subsequently amalgamated into Canada Beef Inc., to address the critical issue of beef promotion and merchandising. Canada Beef is very good and professional at what they do and is the face of the beef industry’s connection to Canadian and international consumers.

I know this sometimes comes as a surprise to many, but most consumers could care less about the cattle industry’s image of itself. Sure, agriculture has an “Old MacDonald’s Farm” image in many consumers’ minds, but that illusion is a lot better than the derogatory image of industrialized farming as perpetrated by devious green groups.

Perhaps the CCA’s intent is to counter the notorious beef-bashing of green groups, vegan zealots and biased urban media. Well, it’s too late for that as meat industry opponents have more money, influence and expertise than most innocent livestock producers can imagine.

Rather than rebrand what they already do well, create an entity to specifically deal with public image concerns like what was done with Canada Beef. Create an agency, lobby group, whatever, to promote a progressive image of cattle producers and their industry to the general public. It’s not a unique idea; labor unions, political parties, trade organizations and of course green lobby groups all develop creatively named entities and side organizations to promote themselves, improve their image or pursue specific causes.

Those disguised entities have shown a canny ability to get a lot more media and public attention than the original group by focusing on particular perspectives. In most cases, they did not change the original group’s mandate or name, just pursued it from a different, more creative angle to reach an unsuspecting public.

My point is the CCA, over the years, has grown into a sophisticated much-admired lobbying and advocacy group – they are good at what they do – so don’t try to fix it. Change the name if that is the politically correct trend today, and get that issue off the table. If the desire to rebrand the cattle industry is so important – take a lesson from our antagonists – create a separate industry image entity like Canada Beef.

What about this wild idea – create a North American cattle industry image promotion entity. Most would agree that Canadian and American cattle producers and consumers don’t see a lot of difference in the industry’s image in North America. We are remarkably similar in almost every way, so why not a joint agency that would serve to improve the industry’s image on a continental basis. Remember, those who seek to disparage the cattle industry already operate on a continental basis, and when it comes to changing public perception, size and money do matter.

Duplication and repeating history are long-time banes of the cattle industry in both countries; let’s break that cycle for once.

E-mail comments to willverboven@hotmail.com