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Beef: Where To From Here?

Beef: Where To From Here?
Beef industry plots future plans.

By Harold Harpster

Beef industry leaders at the 2011 Cattle Industry Convention in Denver proposed a long-range plan. You probably wouldn't argue with the vision and mission statements. But see if you agree with these core goals and strategies for the next three years:

* Improve domestic consumer preference: The goal is to increase the consumer beef index preference measure from 28 to 31%. They recommended better tracking and identification of consumer needs and preferences, plus improved communications with groups influencing beef demand.

* Capitalize on global opportunities: The goal is to boost export value 25% per head. Tasks with that aim include increasing export market access; promoting U.S. beef in foreign markets, and educating producers on export market significance.

* Strengthen beef's image: They plan to establish a benchmark measure of public perceptions of beef and beef production. That would involve coordinating all segments of the beef industry to project a positive, consistent beef image, capitalizing on the family-based aspect of the beef business, promoting beef safety, defending unfair attacks and targeting youth to enhance beef’s image.

* Protect, enhance freedom to operate: Develop an index to measure and track beef producers' freedom to operate. Tasks include defining and communicating the meaning of sustainable agriculture, identifying and tracking the cost of government regulation on all phases of beef production, educating policy makers and regulators, coordinating lobbying efforts, countering anti-beef activist groups and promoting proper animal welfare.

* Improve industry trust and openness: The first goal is to establish a benchmark of industry stakeholder perceptions of unity and trust. Tasks include developing a panel or task force to address intra-industry trust issues, increase transparency among all sectors, and developing a leadership program to improve industry relationships.

* Position U.S. cow herd for growth: The goal is to increase bred heifer retention to 18% and stabilize U.S. beef production at a minimum of 26 billion pounds. Tasks involved in getting it done include securing resources for public policy efforts, attract talent and capital into the beef industry, educate current and prospective cow/calf producers to capitalize on opportunities, and promote technologies that improve efficiency and profitability.

Harpster is a Penn State animal scientist and a beef cow-calf producer.

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