As the Federation of State Beef Councils celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, let’s step back in time and look at successful projects that have created a strong state/national partnership through the decades. This month, we’re merging into the ‘90s when change and adaptation moved the industry forward and beef became what’s for dinner.
With a stable funding source secured through the National Beef Checkoff late in the ‘80s, focus began to shift to addressing the loss of beef demand. Research made it clear that efficiency was an issue and the fundamental flaw in the industry’s product was it was too expensive to produce. In 1991, the first National Beef Quality Audit found that carcass defects resulted in loss of potential profits. The industry responded with education and research campaigns to reduce waste, create best management practices and improve quality.
Improving product quality was a critical part of producer profitability and success, and in the early ‘90s the Checkoff began funding Beef Quality Assurance programs in states. BQA was developed to raise consumer confidence by offering proper management techniques and a commitment to quality within every segment of the beef industry. One of the early successes of the National Beef Quality Audit and BQA was the significant reduction of injection site lesions.
Improving efficiency became a theme to help the industry as a whole, and that also led to the idea of organization consolidation. Leaders of the National Cattlemen’s Association (NCA), Beef Industry Council (BIC), U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) established a task force to study how the industry could achieve excellence and maximize resources. The task force’s discussions led to a paradigm shift transforming the industry from production-driven to consumer-driven with goals to focus on strategic areas such as product quality and consistency, domestic marketing, foreign marketing, public relations, issues management and production efficiency.
The task force also suggested that consolidation was in the best interest of all involved and would save about $3.6 million a year. While the CBB remained autonomous to oversee its responsibilities of the Beef Checkoff, and USMEF voted to remain independent, the Meat Board agreed to merge with NCA. Following dozens of planning meetings, the merger was finalized in 1996 creating the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which assumed the duties of the former BIC, including becoming home to the Federation of State Beef Councils.
Throughout the decade, research continued to serve as the foundation for all Beef Checkoff-funded programs. Nutrition, marketing and product development research drove the development of consumer and industry-facing campaigns.
Advertisements aimed at physicians and dietitians provided updates on nutrient data for beef, and a 1991 study showed that physicians had more positive attitudes about beef as part of a heart-healthy diet when they were exposed to information about beef. Dietitians also found this information helpful when talking to clients about adding beef to healthy meal plans.
Launched in 1992, the well-known Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. brand targeted active beef consumers and stressed the taste and versatility of beef. Television and print advertising were cornerstones of the campaign early on and “30 Meals in 30 Minutes” brochures were used extensively by state beef councils. By August 1992, 79% of U.S. consumers were aware of beef advertising compared to 57% in March that same year. Retail, foodservice, healthcare education and school education materials also promoted beef throughout the decade.
For more information about the Federation of State Beef Councils, visit www.ncba.org/federation. Next month, the fear of Y2K doesn’t stop beef from being the center of the plate.