Beef Checkoff Program key to export efforts
Exports of U.S. beef continue to increase, thanks in part to promotions funded by U.S. beef producers through the Beef Checkoff Program. These efforts are coordinated on behalf of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and state beef councils by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
For the Beef Board’s fiscal year ending Sept. 30, more than $4.8 million in national checkoff funds is budgeted for foreign marketing. This national money was combined with checkoff funds from state beef councils and further supplemented with funds from the Market Access Program (MAP) of the USDA, leveraging the value of producer dollars to the greatest extent possible. In fact, a $6.3 million checkoff investment by beef producers in 2006 purchased $15.5 million in total international promotions when USDA MAP funds and contributions by grain and soybean producers were included.
“More than 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of U.S. borders,” said CBB Chairman Ken Stielow, a producer from Russell, Kansas. “That’s why exports are key to the future of the U.S. beef industry. We need to assure that consumers around the world know about the high quality and excellent value of U.S. beef.”
Last year, more than $2 billion in beef and beef variety meats were exported from the U.S. During the first five months of this year, beef export values were 17 percent higher than they were for the same period in 2006.
Recent promotion results demonstrate the value of investing checkoff dollars in these programs. An example is the “We Care” campaign in Japan which reflects U.S. beef producer efforts to provide high quality, safe U.S. beef to Japanese consumers. The campaign is helping re-establish U.S. beef in the Japanese market.
“U.S. beef is already perceived as the highest quality,” according to USMEF Japan Director Greg Hanes, “but it takes time to develop trust and respect in the Japanese culture.” Hanes points out that USMEF has been in Japan for more than 30 years to develop relationships necessary to increase sales.
A home run
Baseball provided a backdrop for a recent “We Care” promotion in Japan, with U.S. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and former New York Met Bobby Valentine (who now coaches Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines) lending their assistance. The event was part of a celebration of U.S. Meat Month in Japan, which prompted Japanese meat traders to increase featuring of U.S. meat and encourage consumers to make regular meat purchases.
Ryan, Valentine and USMEF officers generated excitement for U.S. beef and other meats at a baseball game July 18 between the Orix Buffaloes and the Chiba Lotte Marines. Pre-game festivities included a fun quiz of meat-related questions, Ryan pitching contests, and bento box meals featuring U.S. beef at the American Meat booth—which sold out of meals by 5 p.m., more than 90 minutes before game time. Proceeds from the meals were donated to Japanese charities helping handicapped children.
Earlier that week, Valentine helped publicize Meat Month at a media conference in Tokyo, with more than 50 reporters from throughout the country attending. USMEF officers reiterated the U.S. commitment to customers in Japan and introduced the “Beef de Genki” campaign, which builds on the “We Care” theme by positioning U.S. beef as a key to a happy, or “genki,” life.
On July 19, the U.S. meat industry hosted a U.S. meat extravaganza in Tokyo for more than 650 key Japanese traders. This event also included Ryan and Valentine and demonstrated the industry’s appreciation to the traders for increasing their purchase of U.S. meat supplies. Guests enjoyed 10 different U.S. beef and pork dishes while being entertained by Charlie & Canon Ball, the most famous country band in Japan.
Ryan, who is a U.S. beef producer, continued his support of U.S. beef in Japan on July 20 with a phone conference with about 25 international and domestic media, including the Associated Press, Reuters and Kyodo. He told the reporters that export markets are vital to growth of the U.S. beef industry and meeting international consumer needs is a high priority to U.S. beef producers. More than 20 stories have already been generated through his participation.
“Though they’re not readily visible in this country, programs our beef producers are funding worldwide through their $1-per-head Beef Checkoff Program are definitely having an impact on beef buyers and consumers in other countries,” Stielow said. “Those efforts need to continue if we’re going to expand the market for our product.”