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Beef advocacy: Beef Checkoff celebrates 35 years of success

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The Beef Checkoff program became a reality for promoting beef in 1986. The last 35 years have been success-filled, with projects ranging from launching advertising campaigns to funding research or developing carcass merit projects to determine economically important traits.  

The Beef Checkoff was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill and is funded by producers and beef importers who pay a $1-per-head assessment on animals they market or import. The program has been a vital part in capturing all there is to offer in the protein marketplace.  

“Thanks to the farmers and ranchers who’ve funded this program over the years, we’ve been able to help improve beef quality and shelf life, identify and control pathogens like E. coli and launch many memorable beef marketing campaigns,” said Hugh Sanburg, 2021 chair of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. “All of those accomplishments and many others continue to contribute to beef’s ongoing popularity in the competitive protein marketplace.” 

Successful campaigns 

The Beef Checkoff launched two award-winning advertising campaigns, including “Beef: Real Food for Real People” and “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.” 

These popular advertisements, launched in 1987 and 1992 respectively, have been imperative in successfully inspiring people to purchase and enjoy beef. 

However, nothing epitomizes the Beef Checkoff more than the iconic “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.” branding. The advertisement started in 1992 and was frequently run as a television advertisement, featuring many well-known actors. At the time, television advertising was an effective choice and a logical approach, impacting consumers.  

As times have changed, the Beef Checkoff has worked twice as hard to target consumers on multiple media platforms and found many advertising opportunities. 

 It all started with research that has delivered information to the checkoff about purchasing choices, cost effectiveness and protein preferences.  

The “United We Steak” grilling campaign under “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” promised to be the most extensive and longest-running beef campaign to date in 2020.  

According to the checkoff, COVID-19 opened the door for this particular campaign, as it was the perfect time return to the television to promote beef because of low advertising prices. The Beef Checkoff advertised for the holiday season and are currently showcasing beef as the summer grilling choice on the Food Network

Influencing the future 

In 1990, checkoff-funded research and product development introduced a new, low-fat ground beef. In 1991, McDonald’s rolled out the McLean Deluxe burger using the reduced fat ground beef. Even though this rolled out in the early ’90s, today consumers are still influenced to purchase low-fat ground beef. 

This was just the beginning of research funded by the checkoff. More than 30 years later, the impact of various projects from the checkoff influences both the producer and consumer.  

According to the Beef Checkoff, “The Big Four research studies improved beef’s safe shelf life by reducing carcass bacteria and improving carcass quality through a national genetic evaluation program.” 

The amount of cattle slaughtered by the four firms – Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS SA and National Beef Packing Co. – rose from 25 percent in 1977 to 71 percent in 1992, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. 

In 2016, the Beef Checkoff commissioned market research for a comprehensive study on how the millennial generation defines quality and what they are looking for in beef when dining out, indicating attributes such as taste and tenderness are their indicators of quality. 

This new research has been influential is making meaningful connections with these consumers. The checkoff has worked to share positive and science based stories concerning all things beef.  

In 2019, the checkoff introduced science-based beef production courses to middle and high school classrooms across the United States. The curriculum contains information on how beef is produced from the field to the fork, how cattle farmers and ranchers are implementing sustainable practices and how the beef industry utilizes science standards to produce high-quality beef.   

Carcass merit 

The Beef Checkoff has studied carcass merit for almost 20 years, looking to add value to portions of the carcass, such as the chuck and round. These two primal areas were previously seen as “underutilized and undervalued,” according to the checkoff.  

In 2004, the checkoff identified the flat iron steak and petite tender both out-sell the T-bone and porterhouse in most food service situations. This could be because both cuts are just as palatable and tender as more expensive steaks, but much more affordable, because they come from the chuck. 

The checkoff noted 2008 was a great year for the chuck. They introduced five new cuts from the chuck – Delmonico steak, Denver cut, America’s beef roast, boneless country-style beef chuck ribs and the Sierra cut. The release of the five new cuts gave the Checkoff five more ways to advertise and add value to the chuck.  

Information in this article was sourced from  

Cameron Magee is an intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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