During the 2015 Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver last week, 16 beef industry leaders representing every link in the beef value chain presented a plan for meeting aggressive goals to strengthen the beef industry from 2016-2020.
“While the beef industry has faced many challenges, the future holds tremendous promise for the industry,” according to Don Schiefelbein, owner/operator of Schiefelbein Farms and task force co-chair. “The task force took a research-based approach to not only determine where the industry is and how we got here, but also at the trends and issues potentially impacting the beef community so that we can be most successful moving forward.”
According to the final report, the U.S. industry has experienced significant challenge and volatility since the dawn of the new century due to events like the discovery of a cow with BSE in December of 2003, highly publicized animal abuse cases, negative press generated by the media frenzy around lean, finely textured beef, record high corn prices, and a devastating drought. Despite these challenges, the report pointed out that the outlook is more positive these days.
“Today, record-low cattle numbers, coupled with supply constraints in other proteins, an improving economy, a global increase in protein demand and a demonstrated consumer preference for beef, have set the stage for some of the most prosperous times the beef industry has ever experienced,” it noted.
For the task force, the fundamental question is whether the beef industry can capitalize on the momentum of the last several years and position itself for continued economic prosperity and global demand growth, while managing the regulatory and legislative environments, and providing sound science and accurate information to inform global food decisions.
The task force decided that the single most important strategic objective the industry should pursue is increasing beef demand and established a specific objective to “increase the wholesale beef demand index by 2% annually over the next five years,” which will require resources be committed in four core strategies:
- Drive growth in beef exports, a strategy that focuses on gaining access to key markets and promoting the unique attributes of U.S. beef to foreign consumers.
- Protect and enhance the business and political climate for beef, which begins with motivating stakeholders to become more engaged in policy concerns to improve the industry’s effectiveness in managing political and regulatory issues that threaten the overall business climate of beef production, including assuring beef’s inclusion in dietary recommendations, exploration of new production technologies, crisis management planning, developing the next generation of beef industry stakeholders and other initiatives.
- Grow consumer trust in beef and beef production, including a critical focus on antibiotic stewardship, the implementation of a certification/verification program and continued investment in beef safety initiatives. The task force said the entire beef community must be engaged and collaborate with a broad group of industry partners to protect beef’s image.
- Promote and strengthen beef’s value proposition, a strategy designed to revolutionize beef marketing and merchandising; invest in research that allows the industry to communicate beef’s nutritional benefits; capitalize on media technologies to communicate beef’s value proposition; and respond to consumer-based market signals with product improvements and increased production efficiencies.
“The overall vision of our Task Force has been straightforward,” said John Butler, chief executive officer of Beef Marketing Group, a task force co-chair. “Recognizing the growing demand among the world’s middle class for high-quality protein, we want the U.S. beef industry to responsibly produce the most trusted and preferred protein in the world. At this pivotal point in the U.S. beef industry’s history we need to focus our energies and limited resources on those areas that can provide our industry the best results.”