Polly Ruhland, Cattlemen's Beef Board CEO, says building demand for beef clearly is one of the goals of the checkoff, but that goal often is misunderstood.
"Beef demand is commonly confused with beef consumption, although the two are very different," Ruhland says. "Simply put, you can't eat what you don't make. So consumption is a measure of what we eat – it's a measure of inventory in our business. Domestic production and imported supply of beef and beef products divided by the number of people eating."
Ruhland says that in demand, prices adjust to clear the market, whatever the supply. The market reflects consumers that are willing to pay more , regardless of what the supply is doing.
"So even when volume is low, as it is now, and through the next year or two at least we expect [strength of demand to] grow. Demand can grow when supply is low and that's what we're seeing right now."
Ruhland notes that the difference is key because demand tells the beef checkoff about beef consumers.
"Beef demand goes beyond a simple quantity and measures consumer desirability and consumer preference. Those are two things the checkoff knows very, very well – beef desirability and consumer preference for our product," Ruhland notes. "The economy plays a factor – we can't control the economy, we probably can't control disposable income, but we can influence consumer's desire to pay more for our product, thereby supporting and maybe even growing demand in a time when we have little product to offer them and prices are high."
Polly Ruhland has served the beef industry for more than 20 years, most recently as vice president of planning and evaluation for CBB. Previously, she was with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, holding senior positions in the areas of state beef council and affiliate relations, issues management, membership and communications.
For more about the checkoff, visit MyBeefCheckoff.com, and visit the MyBeefCheckoffMeeting blog to find more information about the revised joint committee structure and how those committees address beef demand drivers.