35 Years of Producers Rolling Up Their Sleeves
Cattle producers are not people who sit around and wait for things to happen. They want action and are the first to roll up their sleeves and get down to business. In fact, that’s just what they did decades ago as they searched for a better way to promote their product. Their hard work and tenacity resulted in the Beef Checkoff.
While the Beef Checkoff was created under the Beef Promotion & Research Act, part of the 1985 Farm Bill, it didn’t take effect until 1986, when the Beef Promotion & Research Order was issued, and collection of the Checkoff dollar began. This year marks the Checkoff’s 35th anniversary.
Since 1986, the producer-led program has rolled up a lot of sleeves to shape the industry through Checkoff-funded promotion, research, and education initiatives. In a mere three and a half decades, it has covered a lot of ground to help keep beef the protein of choice among consumers, creating a breadth and depth of work worth noting, including these highlights:
- 1987: Launch of the award-winning “Beef: Real Food for Real People” ad campaign
- 1990: R&D introduces low-fat ground beef, which McDonald’s uses in the new McLean Deluxe hamburger
- Early ‘90s: Checkoff-funded BQA program begins at the state level
- 1992: Launch of the award-winning “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” ad campaign
- 1994: Following a beef-linked E. coli outbreak, research with packing plants and food safety experts helps develop new spray washes to reduce pathogens and prevent future contamination
- 1994: The first sale of U.S.-produced beef is made to China
- 1997: A microbial-mapping study identifies Critical Entry Points for pathogens at packing plants; high-temperature vacuuming removing contaminants from carcasses becomes the new industry standard
- Late ‘90s: Groundbreaking muscle profiling research adds overall carcass value by reinventing the previously underutilized chuck and round portions
- 2000: Launch of TV ads featuring Aaron Copland’s “Hoe-Down” and actor Sam Elliot’s voice highlight prepared beef items and increase sales by 131%
- 2003: When BSE is discovered in the U.S., the Checkoff partners with USDA and industry/food safety experts to reassure American consumers of protocols in place to prevent the disease from entering the food supply
- 2006: Amid BSE concerns in Japan, the largest export market for U.S. beef, USMEF launches “We Care” to demonstrate beef’s safety and quality and rebuild trust among Japanese consumers; the campaign helps return American beef sales to Japan to pre-BSE levels of $1.5 billion annually
- 2010: Launch of the Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program
- 2012: The Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet study shows lean beef as part of a heart-healthy diet is as effective in lowering heart disease risk as the DASH diet
- 2015: Advertising drives more than 2.2 million site visits to BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com, a 29% increase over FY14
- 2017: Efforts to refresh the Beef Category on Amazon Fresh Prime increases beef units sold by 16%
- 2018: Culinary debut of Beefshi, sushi using beef instead of fish
- 2019: Beef production courses are introduced nationwide to middle and high school science classes
- 2020: A “lost year” for many industries due to COVID, the Checkoff helps contractors nimbly adapt programming to help push beef demand to record highs; total meat sales volume at retail climb 10% and total dollar sales at retail rise 18%
- 2020: For the first time ever, new U.S. dietary guidelines include recommendations for foods such as beef as a healthy complementary food for babies and toddlers
- 2021: The message spreads about U.S. producers’ sustainability efforts, including how today’s cattle are yielding 66% more beef per animal with fewer resources
Even from just these examples, it’s easy to see how the producers steering the Beef Checkoff meant business from Day One. So, during this special anniversary, it’s important to give a tip of the hat and hoist a glass to the hard-working men and women who have rolled up their sleeves.
Here’s to the Beef Checkoff contractors, who research, educate, and promote on the many benefits of beef. And here’s to the producers who are at the center of it all each and every day. The folks who raise a product worthy of such promotion and who pay into the program and support it with their time, energy, and ideas. They continue to be what makes the Beef Checkoff tick after all these years.
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 may 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.