Declining revenues have the Missouri Beef Industry Council (MBIC) trying to stretch the rancher’s dollar with the help of more co-promotions; changing demographics have the checkoff body reaching out to a new audience.
The Beef Promotion and Research Program was created by the 1985 Farm Bill and began collections in 1987. It assesses $1 every time an animal is sold, and splits the proceeds between the national Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and state bodies like MBIC. Receipts have been declining along with the size of the national herd; Mark Russell, who took over as the Council’s executive director in 2013, said they keep $1.2-1.3 million a year in state, down 20 percent from four years ago. “We’re dealing with fewer dollars to try to help reach most people in the state with the beef message,” Russell told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor. “We feel like we’re doing a good job, but we work with other states in doing some joint promotions in Kansas City and other parts of the country as well.”
They’re also joining the CBB in targeting a previously underemphasized demographic – the “Millennial Generation.” Russell said this group, in the 18 to 40-year-old bracket, is very interested in aspects of beef like safety and nutrition, and MBIC is trying to reach them through social media. “Most of them are getting their news or information, or searching for ideas for meals, and making many, many of their life decisions with their social media devices like iPhones or iPads,” he said. “We are trying to reach out and communicate with them through promotions; we do that a lot through social media, through Search Engine Marketing,” where a consumer’s browser search directs him or her to beef industry sites.
There’s also plenty of opportunity for face-to-face promotions; Missouri is among states where the checkoff participates in Team Beef, whose members attend marathons and promote the value of nutrient-dense beef in the diets of distance runners and other athletes. MBIC has an ace in the hole – Springfield’s own Emily Scott, who competed as a speed skater in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Russell said, “She’s an advocate for beef in an athlete’s diet, and has been in Missouri representing the MBIC at some events. In the next six months to a year, we’re looking forward to her participating in several other events.”
Other beef promotional events take place in the state’s urban areas, where MBIC works with what Russell calls “influencers,” people whose words on nutrition carry weight with consumers – dieticians, chefs, grocers, physicians, and sports and fitness trainers. “We do real direct, one-on-one type promotions and work with those people,” he said.
You might say the beef promotion campaign has been wildly successful, since beef is at record prices. A lot of that, of course, is due to external factors like droughts and high grain prices, but Russell pointed out, “Demand is still extremely strong for beef in this country and with the supply of beef still limited, I think we’re going to continue to see those strong prices for probably another year or so. But as we see sales being stronger all the time, that’s a good sign that while people may be shifting when they’re eating beef, they still are. In the state of Missouri, the average per capita beef consumed is 3.5 times a week, which is significantly higher than the national average, so we have a state that believes in beef and is still eating beef even at higher prices.”


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