Jennifer Houston was using creative strategies to market and sell cattle long before the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food movement took hold.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a degree in animal science, Houston accepted a position at the East Tennessee Livestock Center, where she worked with her in-laws who owned and operated the market. It was the first market to introduce a voluntary checkoff program, setting aside 10 cents per head for beef promotion, and the first in the Southeast to use electronic identification tags during livestock sales.
“We always tried to be progressive in our marketing to farmers,” Houston says.
Their efforts were successful, but Houston believed that getting involved in state and national associations provided the best opportunities to support cattle farmers and promote the industry.
Over the last 30 years, Houston has volunteered with state associations such as the Tennessee Beef Industry Council and the Tennessee Livestock Marketing Association. She has also served on boards and committees with numerous national organizations, including the Federation of State Beef Councils, U.S. Meat Export Federation, and the Beef Industry Council of the National Livestock and Meat Board.
“We all have different resources and we all raise our cattle differently, but we are all here because we love the animals,” she says. “No one else is going to tell our stories or lobby on our behalf; we need to have one voice.”
In February 2019, Houston became president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. In her role, she travels across the country and around the world to promote farmer-friendly legislation and elevate the voices of American beef producers.
The work has taken her to the White House on multiple occasions to represent the interests of cattle ranchers on issues ranging from increasing domestic beef sales abroad and expanding 5G service to rural America, to support of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Houston plans to spend the rest of her one-year term advocating for the rollback of burdensome environmental regulations and promoting open access to international markets for beef exports.
See more: Bringing Back Tennessee’s Beef
“Working with this administration, we have made some great strides and done a great job of showing the importance of trade to the industry,” she says. “We need to concentrate on what we agree on to move the industry forward. We can get more done working together.”