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Beef

The relentless search for a moderately priced, tasty steak may be over for Americans who are gearing up for grilling season with the arrival of Memorial Day weekend.
Recently, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), in partnership with the Beef Innovations Group (BIG), released another round of new cuts of beef to provide more of steak choices for consumers.
In recent history, the prices of sub-primal cuts of beef has fallen, and the beef carcass consists of about 30 percent sub-primal cuts, which are underutilized by the industry.
“They wanted to find new opportunities in the muscles to make the value cuts more profitable,” says Dianne Kirkbride, cow/calf and stocker cattle operation owner and Wyoming Beef Council member.
The Muscle Profiling Project began in the late 1990s to identify and improve those portions, specifically the beef chuck and round.
“They did the research and analyzed the individual muscles,” Kirkbride continues. After isolating 39 muscles, the chuck and round portions were selected as “diamonds in the rough” for further development.
From the Muscle Profiling Project, NCBA, funded by the beef check-off, founded BIG to explore options for more efficiently using the entire beef carcass. BIG has since been vital in the introduction and marketing of a number of new cuts of beef now available on the market.
Bridget Wasser, senior director of meat science and technology at NCBA, talks about the purpose of the Muscle Profiling, saying, “The Beef Innovations Group was looking for new items that meet consumer needs, delivering high quality eating experiences.”  
The efforts of BIG resulted in 13 new cuts released between 2002 and 2008. These cuts, derived from the chuck roll and chuck shoulder clod, include Delmonico Steak, boneless country-style ribs, America’s beef roast, Sierra Cut, Denver Cut, Flat Iron Steak, Petite Tender and Ranch Steak.  From the round, the Western Tip and Western Griller were released.
The new cuts experienced incredible success, both in the foodservice industry and in retail markets across the nation. Particularly, the Flat Iron, Petite Tender and Ranch Steak each sold in higher quantity than Porterhouse steaks, and Flat Irons outsold T-bone steaks by more than 30 million pounds in the foodservice industry in 2007, according to Technomic, Inc. reports.
Consumers readily accepted the new quality cuts. Tracking data from each cut shows a number of successes, particularly with the Flat Iron Steaks.
“One of the reasons I think it has been successful is that it has been picked up by a number of restaurant chains,” comments Kirkbride.
Grocery stores, with help from a push by Kroger, also made the Beef Value Added cuts available in nearly 10,000 stores across the nation.
Kirkbride mentions, “I am even seeing some of these products in our smaller, local grocery stores. Two of the products are coming out in the Schwan’s line.”
The benefits of these new cuts reach a number of consumer concerns.
Wasser states, “One purpose of the project was to create more consistent, higher quality cuts, and also cuts that hit a different price point.” Ease of preparation and great taste add to the positive qualities of the product.
“We want to make sure they are all good quality eating experiences,” says Wasser, referring to consumer interactions with beef.
The increasing health consciousness of the American public is addressed as well. In taking large chunks of meat, separating them into single-muscle cuts and eliminating connective tissues, the product becomes leaner.
“Some of the muscles are hidden in there. When you look at it, you can pull them apart, and they are wonderful and have good flavor,” says Kirkbride.
The increased leanness of these new cuts provides a healthier overall product. The ability of these new cuts to meet health and cost standards set by the consumer bolsters the positive economic impact for ranchers across the country.
“When you’re doing research like this, in the long run, the goal is to make things more profitable,” states Kirkbride, “That’s what we want producers to know.”  
The increased percentage of the carcass made into steak cuts takes advantage of single muscle fabrications, says Wasser, which adds more value to the total carcass. When portions previously ground can be sold as steak cuts instead, producers benefit.
The added value to cattle, as estimated by CattleFax, is between $50 and $75 from the cuts released by 2008, which totals approximately $1.4 billion each year.
At the August 2010 Innovative Beef Symposium in Denver, Colo., six new cuts were introduced. These cuts, derived from the round, include the Santa Fe Cut, Round Petite Tender, San Antonio Steak, Tucson Cut, Braison Cut and Merlot Cut.
“It’s too soon to really get any data,” says Wasser on the success of the new round cuts. However, many expect high sales and positive economic impacts.  
Consumers will see more options available for beef on the shelves, and producers will see more money in their pockets. CattleFax forecasts that the round value added cuts will increase the value of cattle by $20 to $30 per head and chuck roll cuts by $40 to $50 per head.
These new cuts are expected to perform well in both foodservice and retail industries.
However, says Kirkbride, “People have to know about it.”
Both NCBA and BIG are working on promoting the products, through in-store demos, social media networks and a myriad of other strategies.
“The culinary innovations team down in Denver does a wonderful job promoting and coming out with recipes,” mentions Kirkbride.
BIG provides preparation instructions and recommended recipes for each of these cuts on their website at beefinnovationsgroup.com.  
After finding the numerous new cuts from the chuck and round, Wasser says they are looking, but no additional new products will be released in the foreseeable future. Currently BIG and NCBA are working on marketing the cuts released last August.
Kirkbride adds, “One of the areas I’d like to see them do more work with is the flank steak. Who knows what they’ll come up with. They are working all the time.”
Saige Albert is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cheyenne – Greg Hanes, assistant vice president of international marketing at the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), recently asked a room full of ranchers how many of them export the beef they produce. Only a handful of ranchers, in a room of more than 300, raised their hand.

“All of us should be raising our hands,” he told them. “Whether they realize it or not, producers are all exporting beef internationally.”

“Certain cuts and items of beef are 90 to 95 percent exported,” he said.

The beef industry is pocketing an extra $277 a head each year by exporting some of the beef cuts that aren’t readily utilized in the U.S., Hanes told ranchers during the Range Beef Cow Symposium in Cheyenne.

“Beef exports are expected to exceed $7 billion this year. We only export about 13 percent of the beef we produce in the U.S.,” he said. “There is a lot of room for growth.”

USMEF goals

The goal of the USMEF is to access international markets for the U.S.

“Once we have access to those markets, we promote beef so restaurants, food service, consumers and buyers will purchase our product rather than their domestic product or product from the competition,” he said. “We accomplish this through marketing, the teams we have here and technical access.”

USMEF has offices in 20 locations throughout the world. Those offices cover activities in 90 to 100 different countries at any one time. 

“We work globally to find the best product for those markets, and where we can get the most value back above what we could sell that product for here,” he said.

“Each market has its own culture and style. It is our job to show them how to use U.S. beef in these different styles to convince them to buy more of our beef,” he said.

U.S. exports

With the quality of beef produced in the U.S., Hanes sees exports increasing steadily at four to five percent a year.

“We are currently exporting over 1.45 billion metric tons, and most of it goes overseas. A lot of our exports are products we don’t normally eat here,” he explains. “Our biggest markets are Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Canada, China, Hong Kong, the Middle East and Taiwan.”

“Japan and Korea pay high premiums for beef we don’t eat here. These markets are key and important to us,” he stated.

Market growth

The key to growing the market has been exporting cuts that other countries will pay a premium for, like chuck rolls, short plates, skirts and variety meats.

“We export 95 percent of our beef liver to Egypt and South Africa,” he explained.

Beef tongue is shipped to Japan, where it can demand more than six dollars a pound, compared to $1.50 to two dollars a pound in the U.S. retail market.

“Just the tongue adds almost $13 of that $277,” he said. “Short plates add another $28 a head.”

Japan contributes $77 a head to that $277 of extra value, while Korea adds $45 a head.

At one time, the U.S. would grind cuts like short plates and chuck rolls into hamburger for retail establishments. Now, those cuts are exported to countries that will pay a premium for them, creating more value, Hanes said. In turn, the U.S. imports lower-value lean trimmings from countries like Australia.

“We mix their lean trimmings with our fat trimmings to make hamburger patties for restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King,” he said. “It is a win-win situation for us.”

Supply and demand

Hanes says the global beef supply hasn’t changed much in the last 11 years.

“What we have seen is a huge increase in demand for our product,” he explained. “With 96 percent of the world’s population and a large percentage of the middle class population outside the U.S., there is a huge potential for the beef industry to expand their export market,” he said.

By 2030, Hanes says 70 percent of the world’s middle class population will live outside the U.S.

In fact, the U.S. is already taking steps to provide beef for these markets.

“Both last year and this year, the U.S. was the leader in supply growth. We are ramping up production to take advantage of this, and we are well-positioned to do so,” he said. “Brazil, India and Australia are our biggest competitors in the export market, but the U.S. has a distinct advantage with our grain-fed beef because of the marbling and quality we can produce.”

“Brazil and Australia are big suppliers of grass-fed beef, but they can’t compete with our grain-fed cattle,” he added.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its latest estimates
of U.S. beef, pork and poultry production for March. The data showed notable reductions in output for all three main species, but
it is important to note that there was one less marketing day in
March 2013 compared to March 2012, which tended to skew the results. When adjusting for the calendar mismatch, the supply picture appears less bullish. 

Total cattle slaughter was 2.585 million head, 6.1 percent lower than the previous year. However, the average weekday slaughter in March was 123,114 head, 1.6 percent lower than a year ago. 

Cattle carcass weight increases appear to be leveling off, with the average cattle carcass weight in March pegged at 792 pounds, 0.5 percent
over a year ago. Cattle carcass weights rose by 2.3 percent in 2012. 

Total commercial beef production in March was 2.038 billion pounds, 5.6 percent lower than a year ago. Average daily beef supplies in March were about 97.1 million pounds per day, 1.1 percent lower than the previous year. 

Beef production is slowly declining but the cutbacks are not significant enough yet to propel beef prices to new record highs, especially given significant demand headwinds so far this year.

Casper – As the U.S. beef industry looks back on the past year, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Kevin Kester told members of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) that a lot of positive progress has been made. 

“There is a lot going on, but it’s almost all good,” Kester said during the 2018 WSGA Winter Roundup Convention and Trade Show. 

Kester, whose family ranches along the central coast of California about halfway between the Bay Area and Los Angeles and about 40 miles from the coast, emphasized the importance of relationships and working together to accomplish the goals of the industry as a whole. 

“The state-national partnership is truly, truly important,” he said. “Without our partnerships between the state and national levels, we would not be effective in Washington, D.C.”

“The same is true for states,” Kester added. “States would have a harder time if they didn’t have the partnership with the national organization.”

Reviewing priorities

In looking back at 2018, Kester said NCBA “hit the nail on the head” in assessing the association’s top five priorities for the year.

While the 2018 Farm Bill was making good progress, the passing of President George H.W. Bush has slowed movement in Washington, D.C.

“The text of the farm bill was agreed upon during the week of Nov. 26,” Kester explained. “The text had to be sent to the Congressional Budget Office to be ‘scored,’ which will determine how much it will cost. Right now, they are coming up with that number to make sure costs are in line with what the assumptions are.” 

Kester said NCBA hopes budget numbers will be in early the week of Dec. 10 and leadership can confer moving forward.

“So far, leadership in the House and Senate has been successful in not releasing details,” he commented. “At this point, we think the Senate version will over-ride the House’s version.”

Priorities

As a major priority for the U.S. cattle industry, Kester described a foot-and-mouth disease  (FMD) vaccine bank. 

“Right now, the bank is woefully undersupplied,” he said. “We don’t have all 23 strains or nearly enough amounts to cover an outbreak when we get a FMD outbreak.”
Kester continued, “We asked to cover all 23 strains and enough vaccine to meaningful cover an outbreak in the U.S. We have approval of that in the farm bill. This is a start, but we’ll see what the actual financial numbers are.” 

Under the conservation title, programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are widely used in the agriculture community. Kester and NCBA believe EQIP will remain intact, as will the Conservation Security Program (CSP). 

“The farm bill will be signed and voted on soon,” he said. “When it goes back before the House and Senate, there are no amendment allowed. They will vote yes or no, and then it will go to the President to be signed. I think that will be done before Christmas.” 

Transportation regulations

Electronic loggings devices (ELDs) and Hours of Service (HOS) regulations are important to producers across the country.

“Implementation of ELD would have been a disaster for the agriculture industry,” Kester said. “We had a delay that ended Dec. 7, but if we get a continuing resolution and extension of government funding in Congress, the extension is included.”

“When Congress adopts the budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which we are in right now, we will have an extension of ELD requirements for livestock haulers through the end of this fiscal year, which is Sept. 30,” he continued. “That’s the good news.” 

However, Kester said livestock organizations are still working with government officials to find a common sense, workable solution for HOS for livestock haulers. 

Efforts have been made to insert language for ELDs and HOS in multiple pieces of legislation. 

“This administration, under President Trump, compared to the prior administration is looking for solutions with us instead of fighting us,” Kester commented. “But, the mindset of a lot of career Department of Transportation employees is of 18-wheelers overturned and killing people. We have to keep that in mind.” 

NCBA and other industry groups are asking for 15 hours regulations which would start 150 air-miles from the start of service, which provides several extra driving hours.

He commented, “We’re going to keep working to come up with a common-sense solution and get the maximum safe solution to the HOS regulations.”

Fake meat

“When I’m traveling across the country, producers want to know about ELDs and HOS regulations, but they also want to know about fake meat,” Kester said. 

Two classifications for fake meat exist – existing, protein-based meat imitation products including Beyond Burger and cell-based, lab-based products. Currently, imitation products are available on the market, while lab-based products are in development at labs across the U.S. 

“These products are big deal into the future,” Kester said. 

Many agriculture organizations advocated for oversight of fake meat products to be housed in USDA, but a recent agreement has allowed for the products to be co-regulated by USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA will be responsible for research and development, as well as nutrition labels, while USDA will oversee marketing claims and inspections.

“When we look at the milk industry, they lost control with soy milk and almond milk,” he said. “There are rules on what FDA can enforce. USDA enforces those regulations. USDA also has requirements that marketing claims must be approved prior to going to market.” 

“We are working hard to make sure USDA retains its authority,” Kester commented. “We believe these cell-based products will be on the shelves in the next couple years.”

Regulatory issues

Finally, regulatory issues including the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule and more continue to provide an obstacle for the industry.

“Many people believe WOTUS is behind us, but it’s not,” Kester said. “There are 22 states are under the Obama administration’s definition of WOTUS.” 

The Trump administration has worked to define WOTUS within the bounds of the Clean Water Act. 

“The Environmental Protection Agency, under the Trump administration, has reached out and included our advice as far as the definition,” Kester said. “We’re looking forward to an announcement on Dec. 11 from the White House. Pay attention to that announcement because I think cattle producers might like it.” 

Across a broader regulatory spectrum, Kester said the Trump administration has also removed 22 regulations with every new regulation that has been created over the last two years. 

Kester commented, “That’s a good thing for us, generally speaking.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Denver, Colo. – National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Senior Vice President of Marketing Kim Essex spoke on trends and trendsetters in the beef industry during the Cattlemen’s College, held in conjunction with the NCBA Annual Convention and Trade Show Feb. 2 in Denver, Colo.
Essex directs a number of NCBA programs, including the “BEEF, It’s What’s for Dinner” campaign. She also helped revamp the brand to highlight beef as an excellent source of lean protein, and she works with a number of retail and food service individuals who are in direct contact with beef consumers.
“It’s about the consumers. They tell us what the trends are by putting dollars on the table, and they will pay more if they see value in a trend,” explained Essex, adding that dollars are why trends are important to pay attention to.
“Trends gain momentum when they are in line with consumer expectations. The consumer will pay more for products that deliver on their expectations,” noted Essex.
She highlighted six trends and trendsetters currently gaining momentum and garnering a share of the consumer’s dollar, even during what many still deem challenging economic times.
“Number one is human touch. ‘The more fragmented our identities and fractured our days, the more we yearn to connect,’” said Essex, quoting Faith Popcorn.
“Consumers with an increased interest in where their food comes from is one symptom of this. They like to have social experiences at retail locations and dialog with corporate around shared values,” explained Essex
She highlighted Wolfgang Puck and Jack Daniels Whiskey as two examples that have excelled in this area.
“Wolfgang has turned his experience into a true brand, and he’s massive. He has cookware, retail products and restaurants, and he still tries to find human connections. Jack Daniels tells a story powerfully, and it’s the story of the community and the people who make their product. Their advertising says, ‘Our Tennessee sippin’ whiskey is ready only when our tasters say it is.’
“Our beef checkoff is doing this, too, and making human connections and meeting face-to-face with the consumer to hear about they care about,” noted Essex.
Another popular trend today is the idea of products being simple, fresh, natural and good.
“‘Less is more’ is a concept that’s gaining in popularity, and the recession really put this into overdrive. There is a minimalistic approach, and we’re not hearing about a lot of super foods, we’re hearing about pure, whole and straightforward products.
“Our competitors are going after this approach too. Australian lamb uses the headline ‘natural,’” noted Essex.
She listed the concept of “my way or the highway” as another popular trend today.
“We think we should have it our way, and will go to the company who can provide it. Tailored products fit needs, and people like having all the information at their fingertips so they can make smart decisions as a consumer,” noted Essex.
She listed more menu information, designing your own meal and meat case labeling as examples.
“Consumers want this information, and we need to provide it. We have a product that tells a great story, and has a tremendous amount of nutrients for a small amount of calories,” said Essex.
“Number four is, ‘make me a better offer.’ In 2010, 50 percent of revenue was based on promotion, and in 2008 it was at 35 percent,” noted Essex. “We have to find a way to fill the value equation, and give consumers satisfaction for the right price. Deals are part of it, too.”
Her fifth trend is “going global.”
“Think about Brazil, Russia, India and China. There are lots of opportunities in foreign markets, and we’re seeing those benefits in our beef prices now. The USA continues to be a dominating force, and we’re the number one beef-eating nation in the world. This is happening within our borders as well.
“Twenty-seven percent of baby boomers were ethnically diverse. Forty percent of the millennial generation is ethnically diverse, and we need to find ways for beef to fit beef into ethnic dishes. Celebrating these recipes and menu items and bringing them here to fit into the American diet is a means of exploring and taking advantage of this trend. The consumers want it – they’re interested in exploring international flavors,” explained Essex.
The final trend she highlighted was the idea of affordable luxury.
“We see things like ‘shooter desserts’ that allow us to indulge, and have a special treat, but without tearing up our pocket book or waist line. Promoting beef on more parts of the menu – as appetizers, small plate options and sharing plate dishes are some cool opportunities for our industry.”
She listed filleting ribeye steaks as one example that fits into this trend.
“We take the ribeye from a monster steak into filet cuts, which allows for a better price point and value to consumers, and also allows us to up-charge some. Consumers are responding very favorably to this.”
“Trends are impacting merchandise, and knowing what trends are going on is important. There are several gaining momentum in the marketplace, and they are out there and are a legitimate way to market a commodity,” concluded Essex.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..