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Beef quality supply a key to consumer loyalty

Progressive Cattle Editor David Cooper Published on 24 September 2019

Speaking as one who has not yet tried the Impossible Whopper, and who doesn’t plan on it anytime soon, I’ll be so bold to say the alternative beef industry needs to up its game.

Alternative, plant- and cell-cultured proteins may be the rising threat in the eyes of economists and even beef producers. But the beef industry has positioned itself with some of its best product becoming even more abundant.

Premium programs and higher percentages of Choice-graded product have taken beef to higher levels of success. When the segments of the industry unitedly improve their product, it enhances the eating experience for customers – hopefully in a way that assures a great experience in each meal.

Earlier this year, the Red Angus Association of America, Top Dollar Angus and Anipro released a study showing less Select-grade beef available in the market and possibly on its way out by the year 2025. Seedstock producers are using the best genetics effectively, and feeders are target-managing their practices to create more Choice and Prime carcasses.

Select beef was to be 17% to 18% of all graded beef in 2018 and could be 10% or less by 2022, the study said. (In 2006, it was 40%.) Meanwhile, industry averages of Prime beef went from 3% a decade ago to 7% in 2018. Choice beef makes up an impressive 74% to 75% of all graded beef, with 82% and 88% of that Choice beef being top two-thirds grades.

It’s good to know that as alternative proteins grow more prominent, the beef industry is building up its best arsenal of higher (and highest) quality beef. A couple of decades ago, the beef industry could give only tepid assurance that a steak or ground beef could ensure a quality eating experience. Beef quality audits, premium programs focused on marbling and tenderness, and a dedication to BQA programs are just examples of how the product has vastly improved.

This commitment to higher-quality beef is just what the industry needs to keep buyers loving their product. But more improvements will be necessary.

To make quality beef, cattle spend more days on feed. This is not only problematic from an economic and sustainability standpoint, but it may also have unknown health risks for cattle. Officials at this year’s American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) annual conference indicated some datasets show additional days on feed could be a contributing factor for increased death loss in feedlots.

This obviously wouldn’t be a lone or a main factor leading to recent death loss increases, but it warrants careful study if days on feed are a key to quality carcasses.

The fact remains: Genetic improvements, along with targeted management in nutrition and herd health, have sparked incredible realized potential for quality beef. Beef producers are raising the best beef that has ever been marketed to worldwide buyers, and they’re producing more of it.

Let the competition market a burger of counterfeit quality. You should keep selling and improving the real thing. end mark

David Cooper
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