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Frequently Asked Questions

At the beginning of 2019, CattleFax CEO Randy Blach noted that calves would have been worth $50 per cwt less and fed cattle $20 less if the industry had failed to meet consumer beef demand. Over the last 20 years, beef producers have answered the call for higher-quality beef, directly impacting demand, and therefore, beef prices and consumption.1

Consumer demand is perhaps the most important driver of the beef industry. Growing demand and responding to consumer trends are key to maintaining beef as a superior protein choice. The sole purpose of the Beef Checkoff is to do just that—help build beef demand. To do this, the Beef Checkoff continually funds research and tracks consumer trends to ensure producers have the full picture of how beef is performing at retail and foodservice establishments worldwide.

Defining “demand” and how it affects beef values

While the factors that go into demand are very complex, the concept of demand is simple: beef demand relies on sentiment, or the trust and loyalty one has for a product. Driving demand is the effort that goes into getting a consumer to think of beef first—positioning beef in the forefront of their minds when they enter the grocery store. The Beef Checkoff is building consumer confidence in order to drive demand.

The beef industry has many layers and sectors that work together. It includes various dynamics and complex markets that contribute to overall demand. According to Dr. Derrell Peel of Oklahoma State University, “The complexity increases when one realizes that beef demand is not a single market, but it is the net effect of the disassembly of beef carcasses into many products entering different, but often related markets.” 2 For beef producers, cattle prices are of the utmost importance and are a result of the total value that consumers place on beef products. In other words, consumer demand determines beef carcass values, as well as prices for fed cattle, feeder cattle and calves.

Demand vs. consumption

Dr. Peel notes that the beef industry, “is one of, if not the most complex set of markets on the planet.”3 When consumers believe in beef, it pushes the market. There are many influences behind beef demand, the most significant of which are population, income, taste and preferences, expectations and the prices of other goods. Demand can sometimes be confused with consumption. If demand is the sentiment toward beef, then consumption is the sales data – how much they are actually purchasing and eating. Consumption doesn’t take into account what leads to the purchasing decision or the price-vs-value relationship. Consumers must view beef as a favorable product in order for it to be competitive in the marketplace. 4

In 2018, cattle producers saw a large increase in consumer beef demand, particularly in the retail sector. According to the U.S. Retail Beef Demand Index, 2018 retail beef demand was 15 percent higher than in January 2012.5 Furthermore, the Beef Demand Index shows consumers are loving high-quality, USDA-Choice-graded beef products. In fact, approximately 80 percent of U.S. beef grades USDA Choice or higher today, compared to 50 percent in 2000.6

How the Beef Checkoff builds demand

Producing high-quality beef has led to greater consumer confidence, which is essential to continue building that demand. The Beef Checkoff echoes producers’ dedication to quality by promoting this at every turn and researching how consumers are responding to beef products in the marketplace. The Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. brand showcases beef’s superior taste, nutrition and quality benefits in ads placed around the country. A $5 million consumer advertising budget allows the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. brand to reach more consumers than ever before, particularly online.

Online marketing is critical today because consumers are spending the majority of their time using digital resources. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, directs consumers to the BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com website whenever an individual searches for information about beef. This ensures consumers are obtaining the most accurate information about beef in their diets. Since October 2017, the website has had more than 15 million visits.

While beef prices are a top concern, the Beef Checkoff works to ensure consumers continue to feel confident purchasing beef. Over the past two decades, the beef industry has seen a direct correlation between industry success and consumer trends. The Beef Checkoff remains dedicated to growing overall beef demand through all avenues by promoting and educating consumers on the benefits of eating beef.

Frequently Asked Questions

Checkoff-funded consumer research shows us that the key generation for beef marketing – millennials – practically lives on digital devices. They use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to get beef recipes, information and industry news. They see what their fellow consumers are saying about beef, then look elsewhere online to check if the information is scientifically sound. Most important for beef producers, they look to social media for quick and convenient recipe ideas to feed their families and help them thrive1

Your Beef Checkoff program is working diligently to make real, meaningful connections with these consumers to share positive, science-based stories about all things beef. It is the checkoff’s “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.” campaign that reaches this target audience in an authentic, genuine way – not only through the communication channels they use most but also through hands-on opportunities with Millennial influencers that are genuine beef advocates.

While challenging, all of these interests translate to tremendous opportunities for the Beef Checkoff program. Millennials are a growing generation, with expanding families and influence, who will make beef-buying decisions for the next 40-plus years.

The future of the industry depends heavily on this next generation of beef eaters, and your checkoff is seeing to it that they have the information to increase their confidence in you and your end product, making sure that beef remains “What’s for Dinner” for generations to come.

Connecting With Consumers Through “Chuck Knows Beef”

By the year 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches.2 That is why the checkoff is connecting with this important audience through “Chuck Knows Beef,” an all-knowing beef expert available on Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Chuck gives users the ability to connect with recipes and cooking information found on “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.”through voice activation. With nearly a half million sessions since being launched in 2018, the “Chuck Knows Beef” digital assistant, powered by Google Artificial Intelligence, is keeping beef information easily accessible for consumers. Chuck is available for download at ChuckKnowsBeef.com

Frequently Asked Questions

According to “Environmental Footprints of Beef Cattle Production”1 a study recently published in the journal Agricultural Systems, widely accepted claims about beef cattle’s environmental impact in the U.S. are often overestimated.

The lifecycle assessment, conducted by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and the Beef Checkoff, was designed to scientifically quantify the sustainability of U.S. beef production. Researchers collected and examined feed- and cattle-production-related data from more than 2,200 cattle producers in seven regional production areas. They derived their conclusions by using a simulation model and regional production data to estimate national impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, fossil energy use, blue water consumption and reactive nitrogen loss.

While these conclusions are compelling, a recent EAT-Lancet 50-page suggests that the only way to save the planet is to eat less meat, eat more nuts and beans, or adopt a “flexitarian” diet (defined as flexible vegetarianism, eating more vegetables than meat). Frank Mitloehner, Ph.D., professor and air quality specialist for the Department of Animal Science at the University of California – Mitloehner, says in order to meet EAT-Lancet’s solution of replacing meat with nuts, the U.S. would have to increase nut production by 580 percent.

“What we need are more nutrient-rich foods like beef and eggs,” Dr. Mitloehner explains.

As others try to influence dietary guidelines throughout the world, Dr. Mitloehner cautioned that the often-cited data in the 2006 FAO report (Livestock’s Long Shadow) and other soon-to-follow reports will continue to make inaccurate claims about food production.

“The way you produce animals has a profound impact on environmental footprint,” Dr. Mitloehner says. “Although these reports are full of inaccuracies, don’t just disregard them as they will impact us for a long time. Check them for credibility and respond in a meaningful way.”

The fact is that beef production, including the production of animal feed, is responsible for only 3.3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. This is dramatically lower than the often-misquoted global livestock figure of 14.5 percent2.

Dr. Mitloehner goes on to explain that global numbers have intentionally distorted the sustainability picture. Truth be told? By continuously improving their production practices, today, U.S. beef farmers and ranchers are able to produce the same amount of beef with one-third-fewer cattle than they did in 1977.

This is exactly why the checkoff conducted the lifecycle assessment – to give consumers and the industry the real story of beef sustainability – something everyone can read and believe.

“This lifecycle assessment delivers the most comprehensive and accurate assessment of the environmental impact of beef cattle in the U.S. to date,” says USDA researcher and study co-author Alan Rotz.

This information was distributed via the wire to consumer-directed media outlets, and it is also currently featured on the “Beef in a Healthy, Sustainable Diet” page on BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com. For more information about beef production practices and sustainability, visit BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

Beef Sustainability: Fact vs. Myth

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Frequently Asked Questions

The topic of beef sustainability continues to exist among consumers, the media and the beef industry. Your Beef Checkoff continues to work toward shifting the sustainability conversation in a different direction – one of a positive view of the beef industry and production practices.

During a recent Sustainability Workshop in Denver, Colorado, Sara Place, Ph.D., Senior Director of Sustainable Beef Production Research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), contractor to the Beef Checkoff, said, “Our research shows consumers feel comfortable seeing recipes next to stories about beef production and consider it credible information when there is a face or expert associated with the content.”

The workshop exposed agriculture trade media partners to the current discussion happening around beef and sustainability, and consumer insights and market research related to beef sustainability. According to the 2017 Consumer Image Index, only 30 percent of consumers say they are familiar with how cattle are raised, but 77 percent of consumers think it is important for beef producers to openly share production information with the public.

In discussion about consumer behavior perspectives on beef sustainability related issues, Dr. Glynn Tonsor, Ph.D., Kansas State University Agricultural Economics Faculty Professor, said, “The world needs and wants more protein. New sources will continue to arise, but there is room for both conventional and new protein items.” According to Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, Director of Sustainability at JBS USA, sustainability will be a top five demand driver over the next 20 years. To ensure consumers know the facts about beef sustainability, the Beef Checkoff conducts research to better understand the needs of today’s consumer.

Leading the Way

Quantifying the sustainability of beef is challenging, as the supply chain is one of the most multifaceted food systems in the world. However, the beef industry paved the way with the checkoff’s comprehensive lifecycle assessment which quantifies and benchmarks environmental, social and economic aspects of the beef industry from 2005 to 2011. Most recent work aimed to quantify important environmental impacts of beef cattle production systems for each of seven regions of the U.S. and then, use those regional assessments to determine national impacts of cattle production. Additional studies shared during the workshop focused on human edible feed conversion research (upcycling) and the economic value of beef cattle ranching and farming-based ecosystem services.

“Our industry continues to make advancements and improvements in the sustainability of U.S. beef production,” concluded Place. “Thanks to beef checkoff efforts, we are positioned as credible experts and work to communicate these positive messages throughout the beef value-chain.”

Frequently Asked Questions

The Beef Checkoff works to build consumer confidence at every stage of beef production. These investments help drive demand for beef, and are all part of a comprehensive strategy focused on safety, quality, animal welfare, antibiotic stewardship and consumer education.

“When consumers understand the level of care that goes into the production of their beef, they feel better about enjoying it,” says Joan Ruskamp, Cattlemen’s Beef Board.

With the U.S. becoming a more health-conscious society, it is important the beef industry is dedicating resources to educate consumers on the benefits beef provides in order to maintain healthy diet.

“Research study after research study show that you can eat beef, even every day, and lower your cholesterol,” says Shalene McNeill, executive director of Nutrition & Health, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Researchers recommend that individuals consume 25g of protein at each meal, which is roughly 3 ounces of beef. When compared to other proteins, beef provides consumers with more high-quality protein and fewer calories.

Because of growing misconceptions of beef’s nutritional value and a growing trend for more plant-based proteins, the Beef Checkoff is working with nutritional leaders to educate consumers on the health benefits of eating beef in order to grow consumer confidence and drive demand.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Consumer purchasing decisions directly impact the way producers raise beef. The Beef Checkoff invests dollars toward meat profiling and product development, which helps drive demand at the meat counter and increases the overall value of beef.

Chuck Kiker, beef producer from Texas, is proud of the work the checkoff has done to deliver lean cuts the consumer wants.

“Meat profiling and developing new products is one of the best things the checkoff has done to make the value of that carcass go up,” says Kiker.

“We had so many cuts of meat that weren’t high-dollar cuts that would end up in grind, and it was very important to add value to those cuts. That is one of the things the checkoff has been able to do.”

By investing in muscle profiling research, the Beef Checkoff has been able to identify lean, tender muscles that consumers find desirable. The flat iron steak and petite tender are two examples of beef products that became available as a direct result of checkoff investments.

“It gave [the food service industry] an alternative to a high-priced steak dinner,” says Kiker. “They could go with a petite cut tender or a flat iron steak and have beef on the menu. That was huge for the beef industry and put a lot of money back into the value of that carcass.”

The Beef Checkoff has made investments to ensure beef remains a top protein choice amongst consumers. Through research and promotion, consumers have more options than ever when it comes to purchasing beef cuts.