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RSS By: Steve Cornett, Beef Today

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How Would You Spend the Checkoff Dollar? 

Feb 24, 2010

By Steve Cornett  

Oops. Somehow, in juxtaposing and transferglating and jimmyjammying all those alphabetty things, I got the final tally wrong. The folks at CBB tell me (again, Rick Husted having sent me the thing already) the actual final ranking was B, A, G, E, C, F, D. So, what I should have said instead of "I was glad to see beef safety score so high if a little disappointed that so many ranked exports so low" was "I was glad to see exports ranked so high, but disappointed to see beef safety ranked so low."

At the Cattle Industry Convention, the Cattlemen's Beef Board asked committee members to rank seven different priorities. Let’s see if we agree with them. We’ll talk more in a minute, but give it some thought first and do your ranking. Send me an email at to let me know how you rank what and why, and I’ll forward it to the people who think about these things more than we.

Your choices, a synopsis of the rationale and goals of each, follows (rank them 1 to 7):

A. Reconnect consumers with beef production.

The rationale: A lack of understanding about the beef production system leads to increasingly skeptical consumers; communicate that beef is produced responsibly and inspire pride in America’s cattlemen.

B. Educate influencers on beef and beef production.

Rationale: Politically and socially motivated influencers are using food to drive social change. Protect beef and modern beef production and support access to international markets through effective information flow between the policy arena and public issues management; ensure that decision makers are supported with factual information.

C. Demonstrate Beef’s Value 

Rationale: Position beef to compete in a changing marketplace where consumers are becoming more thoughtful in their purchase behavior, driven by increased frugality and the desire for a good value.

D. Capitalize on the Power of Lean 

Rationale: Lean protein is beef’s catalyst for improving nutrition perceptions which are known to be beef’s biggest barriers to consumption. Use the power “lean” and “protein” have with consumers to showcase beef’s nutrient advantage versus competing proteins.

E. Make Beef an Easy Choice

Rationale: Choosing beef is not always easy for consumers or processors, manufacturers and marketers throughout the food chain. Make it easy for consumers and the food industry to choose beef by strengthening the value proposition with tasty, nutritious and convenient beef meal solutions.

F. Implement Cohesive Safety Solutions

Rationale: Competing voices and ongoing challenges have eroded consumers’ trust in the entire beef safety system. Facilitate government and industry engagement to achieve a common vision for, and implementation of, research-driven safety solutions.

G. Develop and Expand International Markets

Rationale: Global demand for beef and beef variety meats continues to grow. Develop and expand exports of high-quality U.S. beef in international markets by differentiating it from international competitors through the ongoing education of targeted decision makers.

For the fun of it, after the list was read, I guessed at what the assembled cowpokes and cow folks would say. Then I ranked what I thought at the time. I got pretty close on where I thought the crowd would go. It’s like when you know the judge is going to place one calf over the calf you would place.

And in this case, it’s like trying to judge a class of full-sib Angus heifers. I mean, they all need doing and no two guys would place them alike.

Anyhow, I think I know how cattle people think, so I predicted on one side of the sheet how the crowd would vote. I figured they’d figure “this class of priorities,” if you will, at B, E, A, C, G, D, F. I figured they’d rank the top three highly because I think cattle people take it personally when activists pick on them and their product.

Not me, man. I like it when folks berate me. I ranked the class G, F, C, B, A, E, D. The way I see it, what the detractors say isn’t as important as what producers really do. I don’t think consumers are all that down on producers, production practices or beef.

On the other hand, I see international markets as the future and I see beef safety as a real PR problem. And both of these are problems the industry can address. (Actually, the industry already IS addressing both, of course, but we’re talking about relative priorities here.)

And I think now, more than usual, is a good time to be selling beef on a value basis. That’s what McDonald’s and their fellow purveyors of ground meat seem to think works at the moment, judging by the $1 whoppers and such I see advertised.

Anyhow, the way the crowd actually did rank them and their relative scores were: B, A, G, E, C, F, D. So I could have done worse guessing and I was glad to see beef safety score so high, if a little disappointed that so many ranked exports so low.

All those scores—and, by the way, there was not a real big difference in the scores, which is what you expect with a class of siblings, right?—now head for the operating committee of the CBB. They will be part of the decision-making process as the committee members decide which projects to fund in the year ahead.

Good luck to them. There is so much that needs doing—I bet we can think of another seven priorities—and so few resources to do it with. In fact, the list of priorities seems to inflate almost as fast as the value of that $1 per head checkoff deflates.

So how would you split the buck?

Steve Cornett is editor emeritus at Beef Today. You can reach him via e-mail at


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COMMENTS (13 Comments)

OOPS! That's E,C,F,D,A,B,G
4:39 PM Mar 2nd
Steve, My scoring puts it this way: E,C,F,D,A,D,G
E&C are about the same thing, along with A&B. People like to buy, not be sold to, so why not make safe, wholesome beef easier to buy....that's what the car company's do!
4:37 PM Mar 2nd

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