Your efforts to improve the quality and palatability of beef are making a difference in how your product is perceived and accepted by consumers. In fact, the dramatic rise in the percentage of carcasses grading Choice and Prime corresponds with increases in beef demand over the past decade.
Choice and Prime carcasses accounted for nearly 79% of the total carcass grades in early January, according to USDA reports (page 8)—27% more than a decade ago. Similarly, Kansas State University economist Glynn Tonsor reports the 2016 Annual Choice Beef Demand Index stood at 87 (on a scale where 1990 = 100). That was down slightly from the 2015 Index of 90, but still the second-highest Index over the past 10 years, and 11 points higher than the decade low of 76 recorded in 2010.
The current combination of higher quality and robust consumer demand has been a generation in the making. The National Beef Quality Audits have played an immense role in identifying defects and lost opportunities, but cowboys from every segment are responsible for implementing new technologies, improved animal health and selection tools and raising the awareness of proper animal care and handling.
“Consumers have our attention,” said Robbi Pritchard, South Dakota State University animal scientist, to a gathering of producers last summer. “We are doing things about quality assurance. We’re doing things about food safety. We’re doing things about animal care and well-being.”
Quality, however, is a job that is never finished, and consumer preferences are constantly changing. Now, as #Agvocates across social media remind us, it is important for you to “tell your story.” The 2011 National Beef Quality Audit listed “how and where cattle were raised” as one of the industry’s top five quality challenges.
Unfortunately, if you don’t tell your story, someone else will. The photo below represents an effort to tell a story some consumers might want to hear. It also represents“Pinocchio beef ” because, while 100% grass-fed, natural and organic might appeal to some consumers and it might be a great-tasting steak, the “non-genetically engineered!” claim is misleading.
Oh, the absence of genetic engineering is true, but it’s also true for all beef. As yet, the only genetically engineered animal protein available to consumers is salmon.
It’s a small blip on the scale of a beef industry that moved 25 billion pounds this past year, but the misinformation can slowly erode the confidence consumers have in the safety and wholesomeness of beef. That’s why it’s so important for you to tell your story. Become active in your community and on social media, not to criticize, but to help assure consumers you care about your animals and the food they provide.