The Beef Checkoff's Digital Ecosystem

The following commentary is provided by Polly Ruhland, Cattlemen's Beef Board CEO

Answer this question: Do you have a smart phone?

consumers using digital devicesIf you do, you are participating in the digital ecosystem. You’ve managed the ecosystem of your farms and ranches since you started in the cattle business, likely putting most of the emphasis on the living things. There are living things in the digital ecosystem, too (you and me, for example). But it is the non-living things that take up most of the space: all those apps, photos, music, etc. Yes, you and that phone are an ecosystem.

Your beef checkoff’s digital ecosystem also relies on interactions of non-living and living things. The non-living includes: research, knowledge, recipes, and so on, all funded by your checkoff dollars. On the living side, we have consumers looking for information about beef and how it's produced, your employees, and the checkoff and industry experts you interact with.

So, how does the checkoff get the right messages to each member of this complex ecosystem?

Beef's Complicated Digital Ecosystem

As they say on Facebook, "it's complicated." Your checkoff manages a bunch of websites, they manage a myriad of channels, and a wealth of media outlets – and without it becoming chaos! With this in mind, your checkoff is working to combine some of those channels into the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” platform this fall. Think of it as an organized library of digital media, all acting as parts of a machine to deliver the information consumers are looking for.

First, there are many different digital channels. “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” has its own website, plus a presence on Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook and Google Plus. And that’s just for consumers who want to find a recipe, beef preparation tips and nutrition information! What if they want to find out how cattle are raised? That brings along a Facts About Beef website and @BeefFacts on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Yes, your checkoff coordinates and connects all those pieces for the digital ecosystem that most consumers use to educate themselves about beef.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say a consumer does a Google search on the smart phone and comes across a breaking news story about flooding. Embedded in that story is a video about a town cut off from supply deliveries. They click on that video, and the “related video” at the end is about grocery costs. They click that link which then takes them to a page with related quick preparation meals, including the checkoff’s 30 Minutes or Less recipes. In less than 10 minutes, they have ended up browsing recipes on “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” They see a variety of beef options, and are planning to make a quick and easy beef meal for supper.

Keep in mind that along that seemingly chaotic train of thought, they read research conducted by your checkoff that says including lean beef in your daily diet is effective in reducing your cholesterol levels. They shared that link on Facebook and before you knew it, the reach of that information had increased tenfold.

All the checkoff’s digital channels work in tandem. Teams from across all program areas plan, research audiences, identify where shared interests lie, and develop content that is interesting enough for people to share. Then they continue to manage what content goes where and when, continually measuring, evaluating, optimizing and amplifying with the goal of creating the maximum possible influence.

Managing this digital ecosystem is a never-ending cycle of building and protecting relationships, and keeping your checkoff focused on promoting beef.

For more information about your checkoff investment, visit 

Editors: To request a high res photo of Polly Ruhland, please contact Melissa Jackson at

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The beef checkoff increases beef demand through promotion, research and new product development, and a variety of other marketing tools.