Film students gain insights about beef
Checkoff funds college students to record realities of beef production
By TIM HEARDEN
Before making a documentary film about the beef industry, Michael DeTerra figured he had no axes to grind.
A Washington State University senior from Eagle River, Alaska, DeTerra simply believed some of his instructors when they characterized ranches as animal-abusing factory farms.
But then he saw some beef-production operations up close last summer as part of his film project.
"After doing this program, it was very eye-opening," said DeTerra, 22, a communications student with no agricultural background. "I realized (the factory-farm image) was far from the truth. I realized that I, too, had misconceptions about the beef industry.
"I really learned how to appreciate the process from pasture to plate," he said. "Ranchers and feedlot operators really care about their animals."
DeTerra was one of three student filmmakers to do 20-minute online video essays as part of a Beef-Checkoff-funded project to give consumers a behind-the-scenes look at how beef is produced.
The other two students were Katie Griffith, a recent graduate of West Virginia University, and Kevin Smith, a graduate student at Central Michigan University.
"This is just a different venue for the checkoff to help tell that producer's story," said Melissa Slagle, trade media manager for the Cattlemen's Beef Board.
The students each received $3,000 to produce the videos, which can be seen on the checkoff's Explore Beef website. The documentaries attracted 2,000 visitors in the first 10 days of being up, said Jennifer Stolp, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's associate director of issues management.
The videos "demonstrate to people there is really a lot of breadth and difference to the way we raise cattle across the country but there are also things that people have in common everywhere," Stolp said.
DeTerra learned from his instructors that the beef documentary project was available, and he wanted to hone his videography and editing skills, he said. He interviewed and filmed Western ranchers as well as John Maas, the beef extension veterinarian at the University of California-Davis.
He also met Temple Grandin, a nationally known Colorado State University animal scientist.
DeTerra's goal is to work in television or make independent documentaries, he said. Doing the beef project stoked interest in taking some animal science classes, he said.
"After meeting with Temple Grandin, I just fell in love with the subject," DeTerra said. "I have a passion of my own, even when I talk about it with other people."
Close-Up on Raising Beef: A Student Filmmaking Project: http://www.explorebeef.org/closeuponraisingbeef.aspx