The Florida Beef Council approved funding for a Team Beef in Florida this past February at its quarterly meeting. Although the funding is recent, this is an idea that has been in the works for several years. Erin Freel, the founder of The Market Place, has been the mastermind behind creating Florida’s Team Beef. Already on her own fitness journey, Freel has a passion for lean beef in her own diet and wanted to share that with others. She saw Team Beef as the perfect opportunity to do so.
Team Beef is a group associated with the Beef Councils in different states. The team consists of athletes who recognize and are passionate about the nutritional value of lean beef and the importance of protein in their diet. The team members participate in different athletic events throughout the year while wearing Team Beef gear. Then, they post pictures and blurbs about their race on social media. While participating in the races and posting to social media, the team members promote the importance of including lean beef in a healthy diet.
Freel has been pitching Team Beef since 2014. She strongly believed Florida needed a team, especially after being a part the Northeast Beef Promotion Board’s Team Beef. She says participating with that team just solidified her idea that Florida needed a Team Beef. She was also able to observe how the Northeast Beef Promotion Board ran its Team Beef and gain some insight on how best to run a team.
As she continued her own fitness journey, she also continued to push the Florida Beef Council to fund a Florida Team Beef. Finally, she created an idea that really caught the council’s attention. She pitched it as a sponsorship plan for herself and her friend Nick Blaser, vice president of commercial banking at BB&T and her training partner. If the council sponsored them, they would be endorsed athletes of the Florida Beef Council. As a side pitch, Freel offered to form a Florida Team Beef if the council agreed to sponsor her and Blaser. The council agreed, and Freel got to work.
The original plan was to have 20 athletes on the team. Freel wanted 10 athletes with a background in agriculture and 10 without. She says the biggest lesson she learned from being on the Northeast Beef Promotion’s team was to include people who do not have agriculture backgrounds. The people without an agriculture background want to be on Team Beef simply because they see the importance and benefits of lean beef in a healthy diet. “They are our biggest advocates, and they have a different type of credibility,” Freel explains.
Applications started flowing in. Freel and Blaser received an unexpected number of applications. Due to the overwhelming support, Freel was granted permission to raise the team limit from 20 to 35.
The official Florida Team Beef has been chosen. The members span across the state of Florida and range vastly in age. Freel says part of what makes the team amazing is that some of the members are trained tri-athletes, while others simply love beef and want to lose some weight. Just as with every Team Beef, the athletes participate in races in their Team Beef gear, then they are required to post to social media about their race while promoting beef in their blurbs and hashtags. Some hashtags the athletes have come up with are #FuelForTheFinish and #PowerfulProtein. “That’s what it’s all about,” Freel says proudly as she talks about her team’s social media efforts. In addition to posting to social media, team Members are also required to take the Master’s of Beef Advocacy program and are encouraged to do the 30-Day Protein Challenge.
Freel adds that the biggest thing that sets Florida Team Beef apart from others is that the athletes are free to choose their own races to participate in. Freel and Blaser decided to allow the athletes to choose the races they are most interested in, rather than provide a list of races for the athletes.
Team Beef is the beef industry’s biggest promoter. Now that Florida has a team, Freel and Blaser have made it their duty to make it the best team in the country as the sponsored athletes of the team. Freel is proud of the progress of the team and proud of how far she has come as an athlete. “I’m just a farm girl who believed in beef as an important lean protein, but I felt like a fraud being overweight. Now I’m proud to promote the beef industry to athletes all over,” Freel says. She is thankful for all the support from the Florida Beef Council. “This has been a tremendous program, and I’m happy that the Florida Beef Council is on board with it,” she concludes.
Since Freel began her fitness journey, she has lost 100 pounds, written a book called “Fat to Fit at 40” and continues to be a passionate advocate for Florida Team Beef and the beef industry.
Although this year’s team has been chosen, new team members will be chosen each year. If you want to know more about the team member requirements, visit teambeefflorida.com/athletes-guide/.
To learn more about Florida Team Beef, the athletes or purchase Team Beef gear to cheer on the athletes during their races, visit teambeefflorida.com.
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