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Your slice of the pie

Progressive Cattle Editor Cassidy Woolsey Published on 24 February 2020

My sweet grandma was notorious for slicing overly generous portions of pie, cake or really anything that was categorized as “added sugars” in the MyPlate nutritional guidelines.

While my younger self never batted an eye at a serving nearly as big as my hand, my teenage version and older would remind her, “Just a small piece, Grandma,” as she plopped what looked to be two-and-a-half servings on my plate.

I’m not sure if it was her way of spoiling her company or if it was because her glasses sat idle in the cupboard, but the portions only got larger as she aged.

At the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Industry Convention and Trade Show last month in San Antonio, I was reminded of the saying, “There’s plenty of pie for everyone.” This can translate to today’s popular discussion of fake meat, consumer spending and even profitability.

Kevin Good, CattleFax analyst, suggested at the convention that the pie has only gotten bigger – referring to beef’s market share when compared to pork and poultry. Looking at the pie charts in Figure 1, beef’s value share of the protein market has gone from 40% in 1999 to 46% in 2019, while pork and poultry have gone down slightly.

Beef market share of consumer spending

The thing to note, however, is consumer spending has increased from $122 billion to $241 billion in a 20-year time period.

Good attributed this growth to a strong economy and better employment rates but also the quality and consistency of our beef product. “We’ve got a bigger pie, and beef is getting a bigger piece of that pie,” Good reiterated.

But what about when it comes to fake meat? Is there room in that pie for alternative, plant-based and lab-made proteins? Really, all fake meat does is provide another option for the consumer. Instead of a family or a group of friends eating somewhere they can accommodate their meatless member, many restaurants and fast-food chains now offer both. Competition in the protein market isn’t new and may even provide the beef industry with opportunities to highlight just how good our product really is.

Likewise, many in the beef industry question if there is enough pie when it comes to profit. The Tyson plant fire last August created an uproar as many cow-calf producers felt the gut punch from inequality and volatility in the market. But if one thing is for certain, the demand for beef is there. People want our product. The key is providing more of a product that consumers want and are willing to pay more to have.

There is plenty of pie for everyone. It may not be my grandma’s serving, and sometimes it might feel like a little sliver, but there is room for competition and profitability in our industry. It just might be harder to obtain with traditional marketing and ways of thinking.  end mark

Cassidy Woolsey
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