This summer, social media followers of the N.C. Pork Council were given the opportunity to show their support for North Carolina barbecue restaurants and earn a free t-shirt by posting a photo of their plate on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #summerofcue and tagging @ncpork.
From Independence Day through Labor Day, supporters of N.C. pork visited a total of 145 different barbecue restaurants across the state. The barbecue restaurants ranged from longtime North Carolina institutions such as Skylight Inn Barbecue in Ayden, Lexington Barbecue and Grady’s BBQ in Dudley, to newer hot spots such as 12 Bones in Asheville, Picnic in Durham and Southern Smoke in Garland.
“Our goal was to try to come up with a promotion that would engage followers on Facebook and Instagram as well as support our barbecue restaurants that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tyson Watson, social media manager for the N.C. Pork Council. “North Carolina has a rich barbecue history and it is a topic that most North Carolinians are passionate about. We enjoyed sharing our road trips and showing off some of the great barbecue our state has to offer.”
Each stop of the road trip included meeting up with a farmer to talk about pig farming in North Carolina. When the road trip took Watson to Skylight Inn BBQ, she met up with Bailee Arnold, a sow farm manager in Beaufort County. “Bailee is not only a sow farm manager, she is also a mom and lives in the suburbs. We wanted to highlight some of the people behind North Carolina’s strong pork industry and talk about how they became pig farmers,” said Watson. “We always ended our discussion by asking the farmer to tell us the one thing you want everyone to know about pig farming. The answers varied somewhat, but they were all pretty much the same: pig farmers take good care of their animals and work hard to make sure you and your family have a safe, affordable and nutritious product on your plate.”
At Lexington Barbecue, Watson met up with Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler for some Lexington-style ‘cue and red slaw. “The pork industry in North Carolina is huge,” Troxler said, “it has a more than $10 billion in economic impact for our state. Our livestock industry, including pork, poultry and cattle comprise 68 percent of our state’s farm gate receipts.”
The N.C. Pork Council saw a 13 percent increase in the number of followers on their social media accounts as well as an increase in overall engagement. “The restaurants were also supportive of the promotion,” Watson said. “They really appreciated us highlighting their restaurants during a time when sales have been down for many.”
While most people just visited the required five restaurants to earn their free Summer of ‘Cue shirt, Watson visited more than two dozen barbecue joints this summer. “I have learned three things through the Summer of ‘Cue: North Carolina has so many great, quick road trip destinations for families, I couldn’t be a barbecue judge or critic – I haven’t met a plate, tray or sandwich I didn’t like…yet, and (my family may disown me for this one) this Eastern NC girl loves red slaw.”
If you missed this year’s Summer of ‘Cue, you can still watch videos of the stops on the N.C. Pork Council’s Facebook and Instagram pages. And we can all keep our fingers crossed that they’ll be a Summer of ‘Cue sequel in 2021.