Empowering ranchers helps them understand and meet consumer demand
Nobody can do this alone; the beef community is no one-man show. That’s why the Certified Angus Beef ® brand invests in relationships at every step, starting where it all begins.
“Without our brand, cattlemen would still raise cattle. They would still make improvements and advancements each year, but arguably they would not be as in tune with the wants and needs of the consumer,” says brand President John Stika.
The supply team helps communicate consumer preference and demand signals to farmers and ranchers, and then arms them with information and tools to create more of the best beef.
It’s just a small logo. It doesn’t look like much, unless you’re trying to sort through lines of data on thousands of cattle. Then the Targeting the BrandSM logo is a welcome signal. The mark identifies animals more likely to help ranchers breed the next generation of cattle that qualify for the brand, by indicating which have genetics likely meet requirements for marbling, ribeye size, carcass weight and more.
“It’s a little like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for livestock,” says Kara Lee, production brand manager. “The goal is to make it easier for ranchers to sort through all the information available today, and help cattlemen who are really focused on quality get there more easily.”
Registered breeders at 75 sales this year used the Targeting the Brand logo to market bulls that met the program’s requirement—nearly triple the previous sale season.
“We try to arm people with enough information that they can make a decision on what they need for their cattle and their herd,” says Debbie Davis, who ranches with her husband, Jim, and their family in Oklahoma. “We can say, ‘Hey, we’ve got those cattle that can produce the brand, that can get you a premium.’ We’re aiming for the white-tablecloth crowd,” she says.
“When cattlemen buy bulls, that sets the direction of their herd for years to come,” Lee says. “It’s a big decision, and we’re happy their suppliers are making sure beef quality is part of the picture.”
From breeding to calving to feeding—it takes months and years of work to get cattle from that bull purchase to when the calves are weaned and ready to move on to finishing. For just a few short months, all of that potential rests in the hands of cattle feeders.
Speakers addressed topics ranging from animal care to alternative meats.
“Sometimes we have to have an open mind to be on the menu,” suggested retail food expert Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics, who studies consumer trends in the Food Marketing Institute’s annual Power of Meat survey. She noted that while consumers may want to include more plants in their diets, it doesn’t have to be at the expense of meat.
Even in a climate where everything from peanut butter to granola bars is being positioned as a great source of protein, “meat is still the superior deliverer,” she said, challenging the beef community to keep working to win and maintain consumers.
“The speakers represent a cross section of thought leaders on a variety of topics; the dialogue is very fresh, informative and forward thinking,” says Paul Dykstra, beef cattle specialist. “We hope attendees garner some ideas or different ways of thinking about familiar challenges that will either stimulate immediate results or longer-term directional change.”
Throughout the year, the brand interacts with farmers and ranchers at regional and national events, but in between, there’s always a steady conversation about economic incentives and management for quality.
“We like to hear from cattlemen, keeping a pulse on what’s most important to their livelihoods, and then in turn, we can share ways the brand fits into that,” says Miranda Reiman, director of producer communications. Videos and audio clips air on national farm networks, articles run in trade publications across North America and social and digital media amplify the reach. “Our goal is to get producers more news and ideas to help them in their pursuit of quality. If they’re successful, we’re all successful.”
Last fall, the producer communications team streamlined a mix of digital venues into one easily recognized style with their rebranding as the Certified Angus Beef ® brand Cattleman Connection. A new website led the changes, but users on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram also noticed a continuity among platforms.
“When cattlemen are looking for production information now, they can certainly tell they’re in the right spot,” she says. “This change brings a new, premium experience to our cattleman resources by making them easier to find, read and use on any device.”
Keeping a consumer focus has been at the heart of this brand since the beginning. That philosophy will continue to shape the entire Angus organization into the future. Earlier this year, Mark McCully, longtime vice president of production for the brand, was named chief executive officer of the American Angus Association®.
“The interests of the consumer have never been better represented at our parent company than they are today,” Stika says. “Mark’s 19 years of experience in all segments of the business gives him a unique perspective as he leads the Angus breed, and we will all benefit from that.”
The year-end numbers show cattlemen have responded to the signals that say, “Produce more quality.”
“We had the equivalent of 13 months of supply this past fiscal year,” Stika notes. “That didn’t just happen. It was several years of intentional focus.”
It happens when all pull toward a common goal. Those relationships remind us we’re all in this together.