By Hughes Abell, second vice president, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
In a 1988 national referendum, beef producers all along the production chain approved a $1 per head checkoff at the point of sale for all transactions, including imported beef and beef products. The checkoff dollars were intended to fund research into beef safety and nutrition and fund the development of new marketable cuts of beef. The checkoff was also developed to promote these new products and the healthful aspects of beef in the diet, here and internationally.
Since 1988, the beef checkoff has been used as it was intended — wisely and effectively. A recent study revealed that each checkoff dollar invested returned about $11.20 to the industry.
However, time and inflation take a toll, and the $1 of 1988 equaled only 44 cents in 2014. Texas beef producers recognized the loss of purchasing power and saw an urgent need to develop a state beef checkoff to keep the momentum going.
A state referendum was held in 2014 and the state beef checkoff was approved by two-thirds of the voters, making Texas one of 14 states with a state-funded beef checkoff. Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) was supportive of a state beef checkoff. In fact, telling the positive story of beef and of ranching is part of TSCRA’s 5-part strategic plan.
Since that vote in 2014, the Texas Beef Council (TBC) has been doing what checkoff-funded entities do — wisely spending the resources provided by beef producers.
Today, the combination of the national and state programs is progressing at what I would deem a remarkable rate.
For example, I believe beef research is the foundation of all checkoff-funded programs. In the last 8 years at the state level, prior to the implementation of the state checkoff, we averaged $25,801 for research. This is not a small amount, but in the research world, it’s just a drop in the bucket. When I saw the amount of our dollars budgeted by the TBC in fiscal year 2016, only 2 years into the state checkoff program, it got my attention — $750,000 available for beef quality, beef safety, nutrition and market research at the state and national levels.
TBC defines research as, “Studies relative to the effectiveness of market development and promotion efforts, studies relating to the nutritional value of beef and beef products, other related food science research and new product development.”
This research provides the foundation of the promotion and education messages that TBC’s team of quality professionals can take to the medical community. A good example of the application of this research is the MD Outreach program, which shows how favorably beef compares to other sources of protein.
The goal of MD Outreach is to provide science-based beef nutrition information to medical doctors to change their recommendations of limiting beef in their patients’ diets.
Two award-winning sales representatives with experience in the pharmaceutical industry are calling on family doctors and internists who are diagnosing high-cholesterol patients and recommending that patients limit their beef consumption. These targeted doctors and internists are seeing more than 300 patients per month.
So far, the MD Outreach materials have been well received by the physicians and we have high hopes that more health professionals will follow suit and change their dietary recommendations to encourage patients to include beef in their diets.
Thanks to the state checkoff funds, TBC is taking the beef message to the meetings for health professionals. Here are a few of the events at which TBC has had a presence at so far in 2016.
- Texas Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Conference
- Live Well Event, an invitation-only event offering the latest in protein research from top health and nutrition experts.
- Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (TAND) annual state conference, 750 registered dietitians
- Texas Medical Association (TexMed) state conference, 1,750 attendees
- National Lipid Association Scientific Forum
The science on the value of beef in the diet is also being provided to medical facilities and schools.
When you combine our state beef checkoff and national beef checkoff investment to US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), Texas is now the fourth largest contributor to USMEF. We have the ability to reach 96 percent of the world’s population living outside the U.S. We know there is a growing global middle class with increased buying power. We want them to purchase U.S. beef versus that of our competitors.
While providing high-quality U.S. beef to consumers around the world is critical to our future, some would ask, “What’s in it for me?” I’d say a lot, because U.S beef exports bring back dollars to each of us who sell cattle. The latest numbers I’ve seen are from 2015 and it indicated exports accounted for $277 per head for fed animals.
In June, TBC launched an lively consumer brand campaign called Beef Loving Texans, designed to speak to the next huge generation of consumers — Millennials, ages 18 to 34 — about celebrating Texas pride and the role beef plays in the values, memories and traditions among Texas families.
The Millennial generation is now more than 80 million strong, larger than the Baby Boomer generation. The demands and buying habits of today’s 18- to 34-year-olds will affect our society for decades.
The Beef Loving Texans campaign is very good in style and substance. The TBC staff did a good job of combining traditional print, radio and TV advertising with cutting-edge advertising placements. Millennials will find the Beef Loving Texans message on Pandora internet radio, Hulu, the On Demand Network, in a new consumer website, beeflovingtexans.com, and in other digital outlets.
The additional funding provided by the state beef checkoff program is producing some exciting research and promotional efforts. I’ve discussed just a few of the efforts on the long list of work TBC is doing for the beef industry. Texas beef producers who entrust their money to the state and national beef checkoff programs can be confident that the checkoff is doing what it has always done, and that is to spend checkoff dollars wisely.
Hughes Abell of Austin, Texas is the founder and general manager of Llano Partners, Ltd., a family partnership with ranching, farming, and cattle operations in Texas, New Mexico and Florida. Hughes currently serves as TSCRA second vice president and has been on the TSCRA board of directors since 2005.