Beef Checkoff yielding positive results, McNeill tells cattle feeders

“In case you missed it, the big story in agriculture for the last couple of years has been that beef demand has turned the corner. And I’m proud to tell you that trend is continuing.” And cattlemen can take part of the credit, Les McNeill, chairman of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, told cattle feeders attending the “Partnering for Progress” Annual Convention of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Oct. 29 in Oklahoma City. “This year we are producing a record supply of beef and selling it at a higher price. Consumers are expected to spend an all-time high of nearly $53 billion on beef this year, a $3.6 billion increase over 1999.” The reasons that is happening are several, McNeill said, not the least of which are a healthy economy and the resulting increased consumer buying power. “But if those were the only reasons for a return to beef, then there’d be increased demand for other proteins as well’and that is not the case.” McNeill, a former TCFA president, admitted to a little bias because of his association with the beef checkoff, “but you and I are making a difference by investing our beef checkoff dollars in programs that address major demand drivers. Eighty six percent of our checkoff dollars are focussed on the demand drivers of convenience and new product development, nutrition, food safety, palatability, eating quality, and exports. One of the biggest checkoff success stories in recent years is the boost that cattlemen’s dollars have given to new and convenient beef products. “As a result of our new product development efforts, more than a hundred new beef products are available on grocery store shelves or at your favorite restaurant. And a number of innovative products are on a fast track to convenience-oriented consumers right now.” That’s been a recent and very welcome trend, he reminded cattle feeders. “Three years ago, when we held our first new product award contest, there wasn’t even a ‘fresh, convenient’ section in the grocer’s meat case. Today, it’s one of the fastest growing categories in retail. And our checkoff dollars did it.” However, he told cattle feeders that the checkoff’s work is far from done. “Our promotional efforts focused on convenience and health will continue. Efforts to develop new markets around the world, to improve the safety and wholesomeness of our product, to help our children’and their moms’understand the role of beef in a healthful diet will continue.” Just as the rise in beef demand has captured industry headlines recently, the effort to force a checkoff referendum has garnered plenty of attention, too, he said. “Included in that medical coverage are misguided and intentionally confusing charges from those who want to end the checkoff,” he said. “It’s the Beef Board’s moral and legal responsibility to make sure that every producer who wants information about the checkoff can get it.” He admitted that he’d prefer not to spend more checkoff dollars on producer communications over the next several years, “but there has been so much misinformation published and aired that we have no choice but to provide producers with the facts as directly as we can.” McNeill said the beef checkoff is cattlemen’s way of helping themselves. “And in spite of all the referendum rhetoric during the last couple of years, no one has yet to come forward with a better, more workable alternative.” Every cattleman needs to remember that the beef checkoff is working for the future today, he said, and that it’s our checkoff. “No one ever said that it would guarantee us a profit. No one ever said that it would turn around a 20-year downward trend in beef demand overnight. But it has had an impact ‘and a positive one.”

Leave a Comment