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U.S. beef industry prevails in 2019

consumers flinch with high beef prices
<p> beef checkoff photo</p>
Sector moves forward despite numerous setbacks from fire, weather and markets.

Last year was a tough one for beef producers, but the industry persevered, Cattlemen’s Beef Board chairman Chuck Coffey noted in the recently released "2019 Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion & Research Board Annual Report."

“Between packing plant fires and Mother Nature’s wrath, swinging cattle markets and new plant protein challenges, the lifestyle we love has put us to the test,” he said. “Our occupation has never been for the faint of heart, but years like 2019 have helped me truly appreciate the fact that we’re all in this together, and we have the power of the beef checkoff to support us through it.”

Even with those challenges, Coffey highlighted checkoff efforts that continued to lead consumers to beef, including the launch of Chuck Knows Beef, the all-knowing beef expert powered by Google Artificial Intelligence, on both Amazon Alexa and Google Home as well as new initiatives surrounding the nutritional and sustainable powers of beef, in light of emerging protein alternatives.

One such initiative included a webinar titled “Getting to the Meat of the Matter: Do Meat Substitutes Stack up to Beef?” that featured insights from the consumer research and channel intelligence teams and facts about beef’s nutrition and environmental sustainability. Promoted via an aggressive digital media campaign on popular trade publication websites, the webinar, through National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., attracted more than 700 supply chain operators from the retail, foodservice, manufacturing, distributing and packing industries.

The report also relayed that the "Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner" brand reached consumers 1 million times through digital marketing and social media content in 2019.

The checkoff’s Consumer Beef Tracker continues to provide the industry with key insights about how consumers perceive beef products. Most recently, data gathered through June 2019 show that beef is still a highly desirable protein, driven mostly by its taste and nutritional benefits. It also indicated that consumers continue to have a high degree of trust in the safety of the beef they eat.

Beef producers take that trust seriously as they continuously seek to improve their final product. Results from a 2019 study showed that producers who listed their cattle as Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified in lot descriptions earned a premium of $16.80 per head. This value was determined by applying the $2.71/cwt premium found in the research study data. When the BQA premium was constant on a per-head basis, it implied higher weight-based premiums for lighter cattle (for example, $3.73/cwt. at 450 lb. per head) and lower premiums for heavier cattle ($2.24/cwt. at 750 lb. per head).

Another win for the beef industry was the global growth the industry achieved in 2019.

A market development initiative that began in Japan took hold in several international markets for U.S. beef in 2019. With funding support from the beef checkoff, the U.S. Meat Export Federation is working closely with U.S. beef suppliers to develop new products for packaged meals and protein snack items for burgeoning convenience store sectors in several leading export markets.

“Worldwide, per capita spending on foodservice products at convenience stores is exploding, and in particular, precooked meat dishes are growing in popularity as more and more people turn to convenience stores for fast and easy meals,” USMEF said.

USMEF also partnered with South Korea’s second-largest convenience store chain and a U.S. supplier to launch a promotion aimed at consumers who pick up their lunches at convenience stores. The “Cube Steak Lunch Box” was offered at GS25 convenience stores, a chain with 12,500 locations in Korea. Based on the success of this promotion, USMEF is working to expand this concept to additional convenience store chains in 2020.

Through November, exports to Korea were up 6% in both volume (234,310 mt) and value ($1.69 billion) from the 2018 record pace. Since 2012, when Korea began reducing tariffs on U.S. beef, annual per capita beef consumption in Korea has jumped from 22.0 lb. to 27.5 lb.

With support from the checkoff, USMEF also held its ninth annual Latin American Product Showcase in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The event promotes the quality, consistency and profit potential of U.S. beef and attracts mor than 400 participants, including 190 buyers from 23 countries across the Caribbean, Central America and South America. The showcase grows larger every year, with 64 companies promoting U.S. meat products in 2019.

“With 95% of the global population and 80% of the global buying power being located outside of U.S. borders, foreign marketing of U.S. beef is necessary in order to increase beef sales around the world,” the report noted.

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