A Silver Celebration for the Checkoff

After multiple attempts over a number of years to get it just right, your national Beef Checkoff Program took flight on Oct. 1, 1986. That means it now is wrapping up its 25th year in operation -- and we think this is a silver anniversary worthy of note. 

The accomplishments of the beef industry's only national self-help program are numerous and diverse, as are the challenges it has faced in endeavoring to build strong demand for beef, to keep the industry going full-speed ahead despite attempts by some to bring it down.

Of course, the challenges often make front-page news, as people seem to crave drama these days. Amidst this, however, we think producers and importers who invest in the checkoff need to remember all of the positive things that their checkoff has accomplished over the years.

That's why we're taking the opportunity to share with you some highlights in celebration of the Silver Anniversary of the Beef Checkoff Program. And we're doing that through distribution of a six-part series -- "Your National Beef Checkoff: 25 Years and Counting" -- which began with an overview and a primer about beef demand on Aug. 2.

Below is a summary of each release, along with a link to the full release. We encourage you to take the time to remind yourself -- or learn about -- what your checkoff is doing for you, and then share that news with your fellow cattlemen and importers who also pay the checkoff.

A Six-Part Series:

Part 1: Turning Your $1-per-head assessments into opportunities

It was 1986: A gallon of gas cost 89 cents; a pound of ground beef cost about $1.29 at retail; a movie ticket was $3.71; the average price of the average monthly rent was $385; the average price of a home was $89,430; and the national Beef Checkoff Program went into effect at $1-per-head.

Fast forward to 2011: Today, a gallon of gas will set you back an average of $3.26; the average price for a pound of ground beef is $3.87; a movie ticket costs about $8.50; the average monthly rent is $812; the average price of a home is $303,713; and the $1-per-head national beef checkoff is wrapping up its first 25 years of serving as a catalyst to spur strong beef sales worldwide.

Today, beef is the No. 1 selling protein in restaurants, in particular, and in the United States, in general, with consumer spending on beef totaling $73.4 million in 2010. And more than 85 percent of consumers know the industry’s “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” slogan, currently serving as the base of the Beef Checkoff Program. Read the full release....

Part 2: Promoting beef as what's for dinner

You might remember seeing the television commercials with actor James Garner touting beef as “Real Food for Real People” back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, or Robert Mitchum kicking off the "Beef. It's What's for Dinner" campaign in May of 1992.

After a brief stint with a "Beef. It's What You Want" slogan in 1988, the checkoff returned to "Beef. It's What's for Dinner" in 1999, but this time featuring the deep, powerful voice of cowboy actor Sam Elliott for nearly a decade. And that brings us to the checkoff's latest radio ads, which have tantalized taste buds for beef since 2007 with a sultry recognizable voice reminding consumers that beef is not only good tasting – but good for them.

Yes, beef is still what’s for dinner. And these efforts to keep it that way over the years are thanks to your investment in the national Beef Checkoff Program, which is wrapping up its 25th year in operation on behalf of the cattle ranchers, farmers and importers who pay into the program nationwide. Read the full release....

To read or listen to an interview about promotion programs with the checkoff's Joint Advertising Committee chairman, an Iowa beef producer, go to Terri Carstensen.

Part 3: Research at base of virtually every checkoff program 

Study. Inquire. Examine. Scrutinize. Repeat…. Study. Inquire. Examine… OK, you get the picture. By its fundamental definition, it’s called RESEARCH, and cattle producers and importers nationwide have been investing their beef checkoff dollars into studying, inquiring, examining and scrutinizing for 25 years now.

‘I understand that research is important,’ some will say. ‘But why don’t we ever see results?’ To that, we say, ‘Oh, but you do, even if you look only out into your back pasture.’ By the very fact that you remain part of a thriving beef industry, you can ‘see’ those results every day. In fact, if you look closer, you might see that some of the research projects that your checkoff has completed to date likely have helped save the industry more than once from possible demise, often brought on by beef information previously based on assumption, rumor, propaganda, and non-scientific ‘studies.’ Read the full release....

To read or listen to an interview about research programs with the checkoff's Joint Research, Education and Innovation Group vice chairman, go to Roger West.

Part 4: Consumer Information: Changing perceptions about beef

“The American Heart Association Puts its Heart Mark on Three Cuts of Beef.” “Lean Beef is Part of a Heart-Healthy Diet.” “Lose More Weight by Eating More Steak.” Seeing front-page headlines like these in consumer publications is hard-earned news for cattle folks in 2011, of course. But if someone told you 30 years ago that these headlines would appear regularly in regional, national and international consumer publications – and it wasn’t April Fool’s Day – you probably would have first laughed in their faces, then taken away their lager … or looked around for Allen Funt and his “Candid Camera” crew.

That’s because food headlines of the 1970s and 1980s were more akin to beef bashing than to any kind of beef support or promotion. Headlines like “Meatless, guiltless” on a 1974 New York Times article were more the order of the day. And then there was the seemingly endless trail of reports and warnings with which consumers were inundated in the wake of the 1977 Senate Select Committee on Food and Nutrition’s Dietary Guidelines for America, which recommended “Eat less red meat.” In fact, that very report was part of the very impetus for a national checkoff program. Read the full release....

To read of listen to an interview about the achievements of the checkoff's consumer-information programs with former Beef Board Chairman Dave Bateman, go to Bateman Interview.

Part 5: Industry Information is sometimes the best news you never heard

It's often referred to as “the cow that stole Christmas.” Frankly, it could easily have been the cow that stole the U.S. beef industry altogether. Oh, and while there’s no denying that this cow did its share of damage, and there were casualties along the way, it didn’t take the industry down. Why not? Well, few would argue with the claim that it’s thanks to your Beef Checkoff Program that the industry averted across-the-board destruction of cattle producers’ livelihoods.

Of course, twas the night before Christmas Eve, nearly eight years ago, when discovery of a single dairy cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Washington state put holiday celebrations for much of agriculture on hold and fixated global attention on the U.S. beef and dairy industries and the issue of beef safety. In the spirit of the season, though, it was something of a miracle that followed. Read the full release...

To read or listen to an interview with veterinarian and cattle producer Bob Bohlender about how Beef Quality Assurance got its start, and why it's one of the longest-running checkoff programs, go to Bob Bohlender.

Part 6: Foreign Marketing builds a better future for beef

In September 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the population of the United States at about 312 million, with one birth occurring about every seven seconds, and one death occurring every 13 seconds or so. Add to that the effect of immigration, and you get a net gain of one person every 12 seconds.

Think about that: One new person added to the American roster every 12 seconds. When you start multiplying that out, it’s pretty mind-boggling – at least until you think about the world population. Currently at about 6.96 billion, the global population doubled from about 3 billion in 1959 to about 6 billion in 1999 and is projected to surpass 7 billion in 2012, just as we approach a population of about 319 million here in the United States.

OK, so outside of our borders are about 22 times as many hungry mouths to feed as there are inside our borders. Even with the rate of growth of the global population expected to slow steadily during the next 40 years, our planet is expected to host 9 billion consumers by 2044. And if you’re in the food business – raising cattle, for example! – the thought of the accompanying growth in potential customers has to ring some pretty substantial bells of opportunity. Read the full release.... 

To read or listen to an interview with cattleman Irv Petsch of Wyoming about how the checkoff's investment in foreign marketing gives producers a healthy return on their investment, go to Irv Petsch.

FOR A VIDEO overview featuring cattle producers -- including several former Beef Board chairmen -- talking about 25 years of accomplishments for the national Beef Checkoff Program, go to the MyBeefCheckoff You Tube page at 25 Years and Counting Video.