"Cows on the Planet" Podcast: Sharing Science-Based Information About the Canadian Beef Industry

Titre de Projet

"Cows on the Planet" Podcast: Sharing Science-Based Information About the Canadian Beef Industry

Des Cherchers

Kim Stanford – University of Lethbridge kim.stanford@uleth.ca

Tim McAllister, PhD – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge; David Hill – University of Lethbridge; Kim Ominski, PhD – University of Manitoba

Le Statut Code de Project
Terminé en Avril, 2023

Background

Agricultural podcasts are not new. However, many previous broadcasts and podcasts have targeted specific groups within the agricultural community. This podcast series is different, targeting Canadian consumers to present a balanced, science-based perspective on Canadian beef production practices and review claims that animal agriculture is the leading cause of negative impacts on our world including global warming, water depletion, deforestation, and species extinction. The ‘Cows on the Planet’ podcast will blend interviews with scientists and other subject experts through the lens of science and history and will feature no-holds barred commentary on inaccurate or biased science. Currently there are no other podcasts occupying this niche.

Objectives

  • Through a series of podcasts, this project shared science-based information about the beef industry to Canadians with an interest in how their food is produced and looking for more information about beef and beef production. 
  • These podcasts highlighted a number of practices and technologies used by the beef industry and also discussed technologies used by competitors of the beef industry such as plant-based meat substitutes and lab-grown meat. 

What they DID

  • Interviewed scientists, beef producers, other members of the beef industry, and subject experts to present factual, easily understood, balanced, and entertaining information to Canadian consumers.
  • Released this information in a series of thirty-six professionally produced podcasts over a 21-months on multiple podcasting platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.
  • Developed an expanding social-media profile for the podcasts by releasing information on upcoming podcasts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (Meta) and by tapping into social media followings of interviewees and project collaborators.
  • Provided trusted information to help balance the messaging on beef production systems. This information was further disseminated in the form of interviews to media and articles in Western Producer, Grain News, and Prairie Post.
  • Based on how many times they were listened to, developed a list of the Top 10 and bottom 5 podcasts as well as a breakdown of country of origin of listeners.
  • Monitored feedback about the podcasts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter sites.  Little feedback received but was a PETA representative who gave the podcasts 0-star reviews as would be expected.
  • Held a series of virtual seminars with University students where the students chose three podcasts to discuss.   

What They Learned

We learned that the key words which are attached to the podcasts are critical and we got more proficient at using key words to attract a larger audience with time. The graphics used for each podcast also became more polished over time, which helped to attract more listeners.  Listeners to a podcast do not grow linearly, instead they increase more rapidly with time as the word spreads about the podcasts. We also learned that podcast metrics are not the same as for YouTube videos which can easily reach hundreds of thousands or millions of views.  For podcasts, the key measurement is how many listens to each new episode are received in the first week.  Based on this, Cows on the Planet is in the top 10% of podcasts for all subjects.  While we reached some urban listeners, much of our following was rural.  Other than a vocal minority with an anti-animal agriculture agenda (looking at you, PETA), it was difficult to interest urbanites. Instagram was successful at reaching 20- to 40-year-olds with some urban followers, but the majority would be rural or farm-related.  The virtual seminars with University students were a good way to reach 20-30 year olds, but these were students already registered in agriculture-related fields as Ag instructors were the ones interested in these discussions.  Perhaps the follow up for the podcast project would be to work solely on bringing the podcasts to the attention of college and university students who are not registered in agriculture-related fields.

What It Means

Of all topics discussed, the influence of cattle on climate change is the one that generated the most interest. This is a major area that the Beef Industry should focus some messaging. Other topics of most interest include carbon sequestration through grazing, grass-fed beef, feedlots and animal welfare, use of land by cattle, impacts of grazing cattle on ecosystems, meat substitutes vs beef, use of food waste by cattle, and the contribution of grazing cattle to Amazon deforestation.  Additional balanced information (other than the podcasts, or with links to the podcasts) should be provided by the beef industry for each of these topics.