U.S. beef exports greatly exceeded previous volume and value records in 2021, surpassing $10 billion for the first time, according to year-end data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Part of U.S. beef’s export success in 2021 can be attributed to growth in beef variety meat exports. Beef Checkoff dollars supported this growth, helping USMEF further promote value cuts and variety meats to end-user customers and consumers. Below are a few examples of USMEF’s work in international markets.
Alternative Cut Training in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — USMEF Mexico Executive Chef German Navarrete traveled to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to host master classes on U.S. beef preparation for restaurateurs, distributors and social media influencers. To demonstrate how the appeal of U.S. beef extends beyond middle meats, Navarrete promoted the nutrition, versatility and affordability of top blade, hangar steak and flank steak for use in ethnic cuisines.
Differentiating U.S. Beef in Colombian Butcher Shops — Audits are the first step in a new training program intended to help importers’ butcher shops sell more high-quality U.S. beef. A primary sales channel for imported beef is through importer-owned butcher shops, which USMEF has targeted for technical and marketing support. “Our market assessments show a wide disparity in how meat is handled, merchandised and sold at retail, especially in butcher shops,” says Don Mason, USMEF representative in Colombia. Training programs developed for butcher shops will improve food safety, product management and merchandising to increase U.S. beef sales.
Social Media Raises U.S. Beef Visibility in Hong Kong — With the surge in retail and online meat purchases in Hong Kong in mind, USMEF partnered with imported meat wholesaler and key opinion leader Meat Dee to raise the U.S. beef’s visibility, promote sales of a wider range of cuts to end users and provide foodservice partners with promotional support. “The pandemic accelerated demand for high-quality protein and online content about food, meat handling and preparation,” says Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific. “In providing this educational content to the trade through Meat Dee, sales of a wider range of U.S. beef cuts have been realized in both foodservice and retail channels.”
Workshops Promote Toy Donations and U.S. Beef Recipes in Mexico — In December, USMEF utilized its mobile grill and kitchen to introduce seasonal U.S. beef recipes and collect donated toys for vulnerable families in Mexico. The recipe and donation workshops were carried out with social media influencers, local media outlets and charitable organizations in Queretaro, Guadalajara and Monterrey.
Beijing Chefs Learn New Cuts and Applications — USMEF partnered with an importer/distributor in Northern China to introduce U.S. beef cuts and new cooking concepts from Southern China to its foodservice customers. Cuts that are excellent for grilling in yakiniku and Korean barbecue restaurants – flank, tri-tip, bone-in short ribs and rib finger – were demonstrated and prepared for sampling and a new concept dinner. “We are always working to expand the range of U.S. cuts. The event served as a brainstorming session for menu development, and the 40 chefs and restaurant owners expressed strong interest in the new cuts and new ideas,” said Ming Liang, USMEF marketing director in China.
U.S. Beef Variety Meat Exports Set New Monthly Value Record — A notable bright spot in 2021 has been the rebound in beef variety meat exports, with broad-based demand in a wider range of destinations. USMEF has introduced global consumers to local, ethnic dishes featuring U.S. beef variety meat items through promotions such as “Taco Tuesdays” in Mexico. U.S. beef variety meat exports set a new monthly value record in November at $116 million and topped $1 billion for the first time in 2021. Mexico is the top volume destination and Japan leads in value.
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The beef industry is very complex, with many layers and sectors that must work together. Multiple factors affect the ultimate price a producer gets for their cattle at market. One particularly significant factor is beef demand.
Demand is the amount of a good or service consumers are willing and able to purchase at each price. Demand is based on several factors: income, price, quality, advertising, taste preferences and confidence in that product. Ultimately, beef demand relies heavily on sentiment, trust and loyalty. The total value consumers place on beef products affects beef carcass values, as well as prices for fed cattle, feeder cattle and calves.
In the 1980s and 1990s, when beef demand plummeted, producers were severely struggling and realized that something needed to be done to save the industry. In 1988, 79 percent of producers voted in a mandatory Checkoff assessment to salvage beef demand through a national referendum vote. To this day, the Beef Checkoff actively works to stimulate beef sales and consumption through a combination of initiatives; all of these initiatives work to maintain beef as a superior protein of choice.
Producers can agree that demand is important, but many have questions about exactly what demand is and what it means to them. To answer these questions, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board talked with Dr. Derrell Peel, an Oklahoma State University extension livestock marketing specialist, to walk through what demand is and the important role it plays for cattle producers.
“Demand is the willingness and ability of a consumer to purchase certain quantities at certain prices. When we evaluate demand, we first look at the price of the product and the prices of related products that might influence how a consumer would make decisions between two products; then, we look at income levels and other things that determine the consumer’s overall disposable income.”
“Demand and consumption commonly get confused. Beef consumption is just the quantity part, how much consumers are purchasing and eating.”
Listen to his full response here.
“All value in the beef industry comes from consumer demand for beef products. In general, the value of cattle at various levels is derived from the value that consumers place on the resulting set of beef products.”
“The biggest stage of the marketing margin happens when we go from fed cattle to the packing plant. There’s all of that fabrication into those beef products. There’s a tremendous amount of shipping, labor and other things involved. During the coronavirus situation, we basically created a much a larger increase in costs at that marketing margin level.”
“It’s important to recognize that beef is not one thing; the beef industry ultimately produces thousands of different products, and the demand for each of those products is separate. You can see the coronavirus’s impact at wholesale prices. Some of the most expensive beef products and some of our middle meat steak-type products actually decreased in value. At the same time, we had increased demand for other products in the grocery store. The bottom line is, yes, it did have a big impact on cattle’s overall value.”
“All of the value in the industry starts at the consumer product demand level. Consumers who have a preference for our products, who value it and who are willing to spend part of their disposable income on it collectively – that demand then works its way back through this enormous set of markets that we can then see at the producer level.”
Today, with so many Beef Checkoff initiatives hyper-targeted to the urban consumer, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) is ensuring Checkoff dollars are being well spent by delivering messages as efficiently as possible. However, this means many rural producers may not see the promotional campaigns as often as they may remember in the past, and some may wonder what their Checkoff dollars are funding. That’s one of the reasons why the Beef Checkoff’s Producer Communications program exists. Under the guidance and supervision of the CBB this program shares investment results, highlights program successes and builds an understanding of Checkoff roles, responsibilities and processes. Ultimately, the Producer Communications program relays how Checkoff funds are allocated to drive demand for beef.
Each fiscal year, the CBB reserves a small percentage of Beef Checkoff dollars for Producer Communications. The CBB uses these funds to communicate with beef producers and importers, telling them how their dollars are being used in the Beef Checkoff’s five distinct program areas: promotion, research, consumer information, industry information and foreign marketing. Cattlemen’s Beef Board Members, along with volunteers from the Federation of State Beef Council’s on the Investor Relations Working Group oversee Producer Communications funding and projects. Twice a year, producer leaders in this working group meet to discuss and review how the program’s efforts directly tie into the strategic initiatives based on the industry’s Long Range Plan.
According to the Beef Promotion and Research Act and the Beef Promotion and Research Order, it’s the CBB’s job to let producers know how their Checkoff investments are being put to work, promoting beef worldwide. To accomplish this task, the CBB shares articles highlighting Checkoff initiatives, results and insights, delivering valuable and timely information in a variety of formats.
To reach as many producers as possible, the CBB hosts The Drive publishing platform at DrivingDemandForBeef.com. Through this platform, the CBB shares recent efforts and outcomes of projects funded with Beef Checkoff dollars. Producers can subscribe to complimentary quarterly print and monthly e-newsletter editions of The Drive, bringing important information directly to their mailboxes or inboxes. Both editions feature regular updates from Qualified State Beef Councils, providing producers with a beneficial mix of state and national Checkoff news.
The CBB also shares timely updates and educational information about the Beef Checkoff on Facebook and Twitter. Producers following the Checkoff on social media are encouraged to voice their opinions and thoughts on all posts and tweets. Through lively conversation, debate and discussion, producers can quickly and easily offer valuable input about the Checkoff and the beef industry.
Another way the CBB is reaching producers is through the Your Dollar Does campaign, which highlights the progress and wins from each of the Checkoff’s program areas.
Sharing the successes of Checkoff-funded programs and activities is at the heart of the Producer Communications program. Through multiple initiatives and a variety of formats, the CBB will continue to transparently communicate all efforts funded under the Beef Checkoff and show how the Checkoff is using producer dollars to successfully drive demand for beef.
“It’s important for producers and importers across the U.S. to know where their Checkoff dollars are being spent and to understand how their contributions positively affect all producers by driving demand for beef. Actively learning about the Beef Checkoff and getting involved in the Cattlemen’s Beef Board is the first step to realizing the benefits it offers to producers.”
Jared Brackett, Chair
“The technology on hand today is so intricate and advanced. It’s fascinating to see how Beef Checkoff contractors are using it to reach consumers successfully. As a producer, I’m proud my Checkoff dollars are being used to connect with consumers in innovative ways, and I always look forward to learning about those efforts through the Producer Communications program.”
Hugh Sanburg, Vice Chair
“The Cattlemen’s Beef Board has many moving parts. It’s understandable that producers may be confused about Checkoff programs and how funds are distributed. I encourage every producer to learn about Checkoff efforts before being dismissive of its value. Through the Producer Communications program, information is simple to find on DrivingDemandForBeef.com, Checkoff social media channels and The Drive newsletter.”
Norman Voyles, Jr., Secretary/Treasurer
To help consumers understand that healthy animals produce healthy food, the National Livestock Producers Association (NLPA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, and the Kentucky Beef Council (KBC), released a new video series “Telling Your Antibiotic Story.” Launched in late March, the first video outlines how producers understand the need for careful antibiotic stewardship and work hard to use antibiotics responsibly. Many producers believe there is a disconnect between what they are doing every day and what the public hears. This video campaign is an effort to bridge the gap between the producer and the consumer.
Kentucky State Beef Council producers attended the 9th Annual Antibiotic Symposium for the first time in October of 2019. They were inspired by the events and conversations there as they learned about the importance of communication and transparency.
The National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), hosted the symposium with the theme, “Communicating the Science of Responsible Antibiotic Use in Animal Agriculture.” Kentucky producers, along with other attendees, learned how positive, effective communication with the public could shift consumer attitudes. An interactive event held by Iowa State University’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communications gave these producers the tools and communication strategies to tell their stories more confidently.
“When we’re able to share the story of cattle producers to others where animal care is not part of their everyday life, it brings a whole new perspective,” says Anna Hawkins with the KBC.
The chairman of the NIAA Antibiotic Council, Dr. Eric Moore, says producers play a big part in telling the antibiotic story and being transparent about usage. “Develop and practice your message; say you have the best interests of your animals and environment in mind. Understand that you’re doing the right thing and be proud of it.”
Antibiotics play a critical role in the beef industry, and when used appropriately, are a helpful tool for producers in safeguarding the health of their cattle and promoting high-quality beef. The Beef Checkoff is committed to continuing antibiotic research, education and outreach. The NLPA and KBC will continue to cultivate and share those messages of what producers are doing on their operations to ensure a safe and nutritious beef product for consumers through the “Telling Your Antibiotic Story” campaign.
Created 34 years ago through a vote of producers all over the country, the Beef Checkoff launched to add support to the industry through promotion and research to ultimately grow beef demand. After all, if beef producers aren’t promoting their product, who will? The program started in 1985 with a simple process: pay $1 per head of cattle at the time of sale. It’s something you may only do a few times a year or maybe you do it several times a month. Most likely it shows up as a line item on your sale barn receipt or you might send in a check through the private treaty program. Did you know those dollars are contributing to a larger, multi-faceted program?
And do you know the journey your dollar takes once it leaves your hand?
When the Beef Promotion and Research Act and Order was created, the producers involved wanted the process to be a simple one. The idea of “one head / one dollar” seemed to be the best and fairest way to easily pull together assessments on cattle to fund the state and national programs. At the time, those founding producers had the forethought and experience to understand that the program needed national exposure and reach, as well as “boots on the ground” to provide local experience and feedback from back home. By creating a joint effort between state beef councils and the national office of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, the checkoff was assured to have input from producers from all over the country.
When you pay your dollar, it is collected and sent to your state beef council office. There the money is split: fifty cents to your state, fifty cents to the national office. Why the split? Because producers desire the efficiency of a national, unified voice and the promotional power of the national Checkoff programs (Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner campaigns, national research, media relations, etc.) combined with the customized support at the local level at home. State beef councils support their states through unique consumer and producer events, information, and outreach.
Before the Beef Checkoff was created, the beef industry’s promotion and research efforts were somewhat fragmented. Multiple organizations were duplicating efforts and there was no central coordinated effort to reach a greater audience of consumers and keep the spotlight on beef in an increasingly competitive protein marketplace. The checkoff was built to bring those organizations together into a unified voice, to improve efficiencies, and to build shareable – yet customizable – resources to increase beef demand.
By coordinating efforts, funding, and ideas, great things have been happening as resources are shared across multiple platforms and audiences. The Cattlemen’s Beef Board office works with national contractors to develop targeted programs and information that can be shared at the state level. State beef councils use their local resources to build programs, create local, targeted campaigns, and develop research for their own particular group of consumers. Contractors share with states, states share with other states, contractors share with contractors. This unified front creates a powerful web of support for producers and helps to build demand for beef throughout the country. After all, if beef producers aren’t promoting their product, who will?
To be continued…