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Ohio State student beefs up involvement in meat education

Sierra Jepsen, a second-year in agribusiness and applied economics, was selected to be one of five 2014 National Beef Ambassadors. Credit: Courtesy of Sierra Jepsen

Sierra Jepsen, a second-year in agribusiness and applied economics, was selected to be one of five 2014 National Beef Ambassadors.
Credit: Courtesy of Sierra Jepsen

One Ohio State student has been selected to educate others about an uncommon topic — beef.

Sierra Jepsen, a second-year in agribusiness and applied economics, was recently named to the 2014 National Beef Ambassador Program.

The National Beef Ambassador Program aims for young people to educate their peers and other consumers about beef and beef production, according to its website.

Jepsen is one of the five winners of the competition to become an ambassador and win $1,000. The others include Rachael Wolters of Tennessee, Emma Morris of California, Tori Summey of Arizona and Justana Von Tate of Texas, according to the NBAP website.

Jepsen said there are five states selected each year, and each state sends representatives to compete. Three women came from Ohio, and Jepsen was the final selection. There were 22 people from the selected five states who competed in September and were judged on criteria including media interviews, consumer promotions and issues response.

Sarah Bohnenkamp, executive director for American National CattleWomen, said the program is about more than just communicating with young people about beef.

“It’s about listening, demonstrating transparency and creating opportunities to connect the dots that drive beef demand,” Bohnenkamp said.

The program is managed by the National CattleWomen’s Beef Association, which is a networking group that keeps members up-to-date about the beef industry, and is partly funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, which collects money per head of cattle.

Brian Roe, the undergraduate director for the agribusiness major, said Jepsen’s involvement with NBAP “helps promote the industry when a time of diets and attitudes are changing.

“There’s only a small proportion of the U.S. that’s in touch with the industry,” he said.

Jepsen said there is some misconception about the beef industry because of this.

“The majority of the United States, as a consumer, we are three generations removed from the farm,” she said. “So they may not understand what we (people working in the beef industry) do on a daily basis.”

Jepsen said the misconceptions about the beef industry include some people’s beliefs about its nutritional value and about its source.

She said, though, beef contains 10 essential vitamins and nutrients, and that the perception that animals are mistreated is false.

“While these animals aren’t pets, they are very much so a part of our lives,” she said. “I know back home at my family farm, the animals eat before we eat.”

Jepsen added she loves the industry and talking to people about beef.

“Beef is pretty much a genetic thing for my family,” she said.

Jepsen, who is originally from Amanda, Ohio, a village in Fairfield County, comes from a family that usually raises about 70 head of cattle at a time.

“The beef industry is my life,” she said. “I now get the chance to give back to that.”

Roe, who also has Jepsen in a class this semester, said her giving back to the community is nothing new.

“Since she’s stepped foot onto this campus, she’s been seen as a leader,” Roe said.

Roe said Jepsen’s selection will also help the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences by providing recognition — and proof OSU has a strong agricultural program.

Jepsen’s responsibilities as an ambassador will include blogging once a week, staying active on social media, participating in webinars, planning campus events and traveling across the country to help promote the beef industry.

“It’s about creating memorable experiences where people have the chance to voice their concerns and have open dialogues with someone who is credible and passionate,” Bohnenkamp said. “The myths are abundant, but we feel our ambassadors can help with the work they do.”

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