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Guest Opinions

Research Helps Build Beef Demand

Written by Dianne Kirkbride
    Through the years I have been involved in many aspects of the beef industry, but my heart lies in the area of beef promotion. At the recent Cattlemen’s Beef Board/National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention in Reno I became more keenly aware of the role research plays in our efforts to increase beef demand and ultimately the profitability of our beef operations.
    Our checkoff dollars make it possible to do extensive research in the areas of safety, product enhancement, human nutrition and market research. Research provides the basis for the development of convenient beef products, enhanced safety techniques, nutrition facts and product marketing. Research is the cornerstone in building successful checkoff programs.
    The Beef Safety Research group’s top priorities include pathogen management from ‘Farm to Fork’ with a focus on pre-harvest intervention. Pathogen reduction has been one of the targets, with efforts to curb E. coli contamination as a main focus. In addition, there is continuing research on multi-drug resistant pathogens. These are just a few of the focuses of the Beef Safety Research group.
    Product Enhancement Research has been the foundation of new product development and the further discovery of underutilized beef muscles, particularly those from the chuck and the round. Muscle profiling data from this research indicates that several muscles originating from the round can provide consistent tenderness and have high marketing potential.
    Pre-Harvest Quality Research is focused on Genomics – tenderness, consistency through genetics and product quality. On the management side it includes the feeding regime, animal handling, animal health and improved marbling and quality of animals. Post-Harvest Quality Research includes instrumentation, fabrication and processing.
    In a recent review by a checkoff funded researcher Robert Wolfe, Ph.D., the importance of protein consumption was stressed for the maintenance of adequate muscle mass and strength for all human beings. The Beef Checkoff’s Human Nutrition Research Program has been instrumental in raising awareness within the scientific community about the opportunities for further assessing the role of protein in a healthy diet. In late 2008 the National Dietary Guidelines Committee will begin evaluating scientific evidence for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines are the basis for federal food and nutrition education programs such as the School Lunch Program. It is critical to protect beef’s role in these guidelines through sound science and information.
    The beef industry’s consumer is constantly changing. It is imperative that through our checkoff-funded market research we understand our consumer’s attitudes about beef. We need to know their beliefs regarding the taste and enjoyment of beef and reinforce their perceptions about beef’s nutritional value and its benefits. We also must offer consumer-friendly preparation options.
    Through the Product Enhancement Research Team and the Beef Innovations Group there are plans to roll out at least five new products in foodservice and in the retail area. They include Country-Style Ribs, an all-new American Beef Roast and the Denver Cut steak. A number of new “hand-held,” healthy convenience products are being developed. And there are a total of 19 new product ideas being made into “protocepts” with half of these ideas already attracting industry attention.
    Checkoff funded research is vital to the BEEF industry. By making research the basis of our decisions we can be assured that we are producing a safe, healthy, high quality product that our consumer will continue to support.
    Dianne Kirkbride, Cheyenne, represents Wyoming on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board.