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Solving the consumer puzzle: CAB, Sysco and an Angus producer discuss win-wins

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Taste, flavor and tenderness used to be the gold standard for beef and would command a premium in the marketplace. 

“However, today’s consumers expect more than the generations before them,” says Nicole Erceg, director of communications for Certified Angus Beef (CAB).   

“It’s beef beyond flavor. It’s the story that comes with it. It’s the claims that come with it. Consumers know it’s good, they know it tastes good and they want to buy it, but they feel like they need a permission slip to,” she notes.  

Beef marketers, from foodservice to retail, are working hard to provide this.  

Erceg guest co-hosted a recent episode of The Angus Conversation podcast on Dec. 12 where she discussed the evolution in consumer preference with Jessica Willingham, who leads the beef purchasing team for Sysco and Jonathan Perry, who wears two hats as manager of Deer Valley Farms and as a restaurant owner at Hickory House.  

“Starting in January, CAB will carry a dedicated to humane animal care and climate friendly practices claim on their products,” Erceg says.   

“It’s not meant to hit home with the Angus breeder, it’s meant to hit home with younger consumers who care about the climate and animal welfare,” she says. “When they see this label they may think, ‘Hey, this is a brand I know, this is a brand I trust, and this is a brand I can feel good about.’” 

 “The statement and other similar actions are more than just marketing fluff,” says Perry, who chaired the CAB board from 2021-22. “The effort includes a Cut the Bull campaign to encourage Angus breeders to become Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified and a Working Grassland Conservation Initiative allowing the brand to gather data and help ranchers improve their grazing land at the same time.”  

“We as breeders believe integrity is the number one ingredient in everything we do. CAB has done a tremendous job of mirroring this and taking it into the marketplace,” he says. “The thing CAB has done for farmers and ranchers is take this integrity and put it into a story that is real and makes sense.” 

Willingham represents the largest broadline distributor in the world and says these actions are exactly what she needs to arm her salesforce with in order to sell more beef.  

“From our perspective, we have investors who are looking for it. We have the consumer who’s looking for it. They want to know how it was raised. They want to know where it came from, so we have to do it. It’s not going away,” she says. “The consumer is demanding it, so we have to drive the bus, not be on the bus.” 

The Solving the Consumer Puzzle: CAB, Sysco and a Producer Talk About Win-Wins episode on the Angus Conversation’s podcast went live on all major podcast platforms on Dec. 12. The discussion can also be found at

Miranda Reiman is the senior associate director at CAB. She can be e-mailed at

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