Checkoff Gauges Consumer Issues Surrounding Beef Safety
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Date: Friday, October 22, 2010
The beef checkoff conducts periodic surveys to monitor consumer confidence in the safety of beef. These studies provide measures of the effects on consumers of issues in the marketing environment and support a strategic foundation for consumer and influencer programs in issues management and communications.
To this end, the checkoff recently compiled a comprehensive research report
on consumer perceptions of beef safety, including a trend analysis of consumer confidence in ground beef and steak, effects of the Hallmark recall on consumer confidence, safety concerns related to factory farming and the effects of beef production methods on safety perceptions.
Ninety-five percent of Americans eat beef. That’s the majority of the population, by far. But what about food safety?
“The checkoff has asked questions both to gauge concern levels for issues that might affect beef but also to get a reading on the things that anti-meat groups might successfully leverage to frighten consumers,” says Rick McCarty, who conducts market research for the beef checkoff. “While bacteria are rated as the most concerning safety threat, pesticides have remained an issue of concern.”
The study also shows that the hierarchy of consumer concerns about food safety issues has changed little in the past 10 years with the exception of the diminishment of mad cow disease in the mid-2000s. Concern about antibiotics and hormones has remained stable since 2000 at a level significantly below bacteria concerns, McCarty notes. It is reasonable to assume these issues create a sort of a ‘background noise’ in the consumer environment whose volume rises and falls depending on incidents and associated media coverage.
“Continued thought must be given to how to both make the product safer and how to get consumers to recognize the critical role they must play,” says McCarty. “That’s why the checkoff continues to support programs such as Safe and Savory at 160 and safety research, and online engagement through websites such as Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner
and Explore Beef
The report concludes that the most important industry focus should be on providing product benefits that are not associated with a specific production method. This, of course, should be accompanied by a continuation of the industry’s consumer messaging programs that promote the taste, safety, nutrition and convenience that are a hallmark of all beef products.
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The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.
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