May 01, 2023
Sparks That Accelerated Beef Demand - with Molly
By: Molly McAdams, Executive Vice President, Texas Beef Council
Long journeys have a way of making you wonder if you’ll ever reach your destination. Our industry has been on countless journeys before and since the Beef Checkoff was established more than three decades ago. One I feel especially compelled to share with you is our industry’s endless pursuit to strengthen beef’s reputation through research, and the profound impact it has made over time.
So much of research happens behind the scenes (and frankly gives visions of scientists in lab coats, far-removed from our ranching lives). In fact, many producers really aren’t sure how research eventually benefits them. But it touches the many ways we drive beef demand—from having credible information to share with health professionals, to how we advertise domestically and across the globe. Research is the foundation of all Beef Checkoff activities, and because of it we are more equipped to protect beef’s position as a high-quality, nutritious product that people enjoy.
I recently led a discussion with a large producer group that hit on the key milestones our industry has accomplished resulting from research investments. You can listen to a recording of this discussion here. I’ve also shared the highlights below, and I hope you find them as insightful as I did when reflecting on how far we’ve come. The results speak for themselves.
Taking control of beef’s nutrition story
Human nutrition is a complex topic that’s always changing. The Beef Checkoff research program is the one that focuses specifically on beef’s nutritional benefits—which is powerful. Twenty or even thirty years ago, everyone was concerned about fat and carbohydrates. Over the past few years, we’ve seen more emphasis on protein research. Producer leadership with Texas roots pushed for investment in this area, and they deserve much credit for today’s elevated conversations on the topic.
Consumers now rank beef over chicken as a nutritious food
This is something I truly did not expect to see in my career. It’s no secret consumers consistently choose beef because it ranks high for taste, but nutrition has not always been our strongest driver. Clearly, when it comes to the truth about beef’s nutritional value, we’re doing something right. By sharing our long-term research data with thought leaders, scientists, medical professionals and other credentialed experts, we’re spreading the word about beef’s positive attributes to consumers from all walks of life.
Solving major quality issues
The entire purpose of the Beef Checkoff is to increase consumer demand. In the early ‘90s, data collected through the National Beef Tenderness Survey revealed our product was highly variable in tenderness and consumers didn’t find that acceptable. A series of research projects, including periodic tenderness surveys, began to identify issues contributing to beef toughness at both retail and foodservice. It’s important to note, prior to the Beef Checkoff our ability to invest in these long-term research programs was spotty.
The entire industry helped find solutions to tenderness issues, including genetic selection, improved management strategies, changes in carcass chilling procedures, use of aging processes, focus on improved quality grades, and more. With time and focus producers have realized tremendous improvements in product quality measured by increased consumer demand and satisfaction.
Leading the way in food safety
There have been many pivotal moments in beef safety that forever changed our industry’s trajectory. Two that I remember vividly include the E. coli recall of 1993 and the discovery of the first BSE case in the U.S. These were trying times for everyone, but the industry took immediate action creating a blue-ribbon task force that investigated interventions for pre-harvest and beyond. That team created a blueprint for research that has been cited as a model by other industries.
How it translates to demand
U.S. beef exports reached a record $11.68 billion in 2022, up 10% from 2021. Dan Halstrom of U.S. Meat Export Federation, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, credits producers and the industry’s investment for bettering our quality, consistency, safety, flavor, and appeal for international consumers.
And domestic demand continues to grow, with retailers in the market for the higher quality grades and lesser-known cuts like Picanha that their customers are looking for.
Research is the basis of everything we do on your behalf. Producer leaders, scientists, industry experts, and staff are protecting beef’s current strong position thanks to the work you do on the ranch and beef’s many great attributes. But we’re also preparing for the future’s next challenge—and that simply can’t be done without the science.