Dairy cattle are becoming a regular part of the mix in today’s beef marketing chain. With the evolving dairy climate, the practice of crossbreeding dairy cows with beef genetics is becoming common on dairies. As a result, between 2.5 million and 5 million beef x dairy cross calves will be born this year and likely to continue the same levels in 20231.
Dairy steers have been fed for beef production for years, so the trend is not significantly changing the number of calves and feeders in the feedyard, but what is changing is the meat quality. For dairy producers, they are seeing higher market value for those calves, and consumers both here and abroad get more Choice and Prime-graded beef products.
Dairy cattle still remain a significant contributor to the U.S. beef supply. In addition to dairy and beef crossbreds, dairy finished steers, cull cows and finished heifers all produce beef for the total supply. Here’s the percentage contribution of each animal type to the entire U.S. commercial beef supply2.
Sine 2002, the percentage of dairy beef contribution to the total U.S. beef supply has ranged from 18 to 24 percent2.
Both the beef and dairy industries work together to create a successful beef marketplace. All dairy producers selling cattle and calves pay to the Beef Checkoff a $1-per-head. Their contribution helps further beef promotion, research, education and information, helping to drive demand for beef.
Today, more than ever before, consumers care about where their food comes from. They want to know about its environmental impact. They worry about whether livestock animals are treated humanely. They want to know if their food is nutritious and safe to eat. And they will change their eating – and purchasing – habits based on all those factors.
As co-chair of the beef checkoff’s Consumer Trust Committee, I’ve seen and heard these consumer concerns firsthand. The topic of sustainability is changing how all industries do business and communicate with their customers, and the beef industry is no exception. It can be difficult for us as producers to wrap our heads around the fact that most consumers never visit a beef ranch in person. They don’t always see the care we put into raising beef. While we have faith in the wholesomeness of our product and how we raise it, telling our story to consumers has never been more important. But, before we can do that, we must know what we’re facing.
That’s why, in the spring of 2021, the beef checkoff conducted extensive market research to fully understand consumer perceptions of how beef producers care for the land and what key topics would resonate most with that audience.
Here’s what we found out:
After taking those survey results into consideration, Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. launched a beef checkoff-funded campaign in 2021 called “Rethink the Ranch.” This campaign introduced the public to beef producers who make science-driven decisions that will keep their herds, environment and businesses healthy enough to pass on to the next generation. The campaign’s goal was to increase consumer confidence in beef and beef production by inviting consumers to learn more about how beef producers care for the land, their animals and their local communities.
Rethink the Ranch came to life across YouTube, social media platforms, influencer efforts, radio, ConnectTV and more. Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner developed and disseminated a variety of content, showing how dedicated beef producers are to a vital and reliable industry:
These efforts actively engaged consumers by providing in-depth content and rancher stories. Nearly 97 million people saw Rethink the Ranch content, and its videos were viewed almost 60 million times. On social media platforms, content generated approximately 67,000 comments, reactions and shares. The Rethink the Ranch page on Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. website was viewed more than 80,000 times, and the campaign’s audio ads were heard nearly 16 million times. Obviously, this campaign reached a lot of people with the truth about how responsibly beef is raised.
Building off of last year’s success, a second campaign titled “Raised & Grown” launched this past spring. This campaign addresses the very real concerns consumers have about how cattle are raised. It focuses on increasing consumer awareness of how beef farmers and ranchers across the U.S. raise beef safely, humanely and sustainably. Some of the producers that the campaign spotlights include Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) recipients and Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) award winners. It’s all part of the checkoff’s ongoing efforts to tell beef’s real story to the many people who want to feel better about their food choices.
“Sustainability” and “animal welfare” are just words. We need to understand they aren’t concepts that are going away soon, nor should they. They’ve been an integral element of our cattle operations for generations. Back in the old days, we called them “stewardship” and “animal husbandry.” Regardless, it’s important we all do our best to minimize our environmental impact. The entire beef industry needs to share the stories of our successes.
As we head into the second half of 2022, the Consumer Trust Committee and beef checkoff contractors are working to communicate the dedication of beef producers. We need to keep fulfilling consumer expectations of delicious, and yes, sustainable, beef.
Learn more about how Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. is communicating responsible beef production practices at, www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/raising-beef
In addition to the Beef Checkoff executing numerous efforts and initiatives to reach consumers and drive demand for beef, there are multiple programs and resources exclusively for beef producers. This producer-led program strives to educate and engage the beef industry by providing tools, resources and other information that helps producers feel confident about the Beef Checkoff’s work and how it’s managed.
The Beef Checkoff invests in programs to help beef producers grow and strengthen their operations.
The Beef Checkoff utilizes research programs to help build demand for beef and provide producers with cutting-edge exploration and data-driven results on everything from product quality, beef safety, human nutrition, beef sustainability and market research. See Beef Checkoff research programs at: BeefResearch.org
Beef industry leaders come together every five years to develop the Beef Industry Long Range Plan (LRP). The LRP Task Force establishes this industry-wide roadmap to provide strategic direction and ensure the U.S. beef industry’s long-term prosperity. The LRP is an industry-wide strategic planning process and is a separate entity from the Beef Checkoff. However, the LRP is instrumental in helping guide Beef Checkoff structure and funding decisions. Every strategy, objective and tactic contractors execute on behalf of the Beef Checkoff ties back to the LRP in one form or another. See the 2021 – 2025 industry objectives and initiatives at: BeefLongRangePlan.com
The Beef Checkoff shares everything from fiscal budgets, financial information, annual reports and more to ensure the efficient and effective use of Beef Checkoff dollars. See all the resources at: DrivingDemandForBeef.com/Resources
The Beef Checkoff also informs producers on what their dollar investment is doing to drive demand for beef. The Drive publishing platform is multi-faceted, giving producers multiple options to learn about Beef Checkoff-funded projects. Whether producers like to read or watch – a complimentary version of The Drive is available in multiple forms.
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