Beef Value Is More Than Pounds; It's Quality, Meat Marketer To Tell Cattlemen
by Duane Daily, senior writer, MU Cooperative Media Group
COLUMBIA, Mo. (July 28, 2011) — Adding value to beef goes beyond adding pounds to calves, says a beef meat marketing authority. Producers must listen to the consumer’s demand for eating quality.
“Always remember the ultimate driver of consumer satisfaction is tenderness and flavor,” says Larry Corah, vice president, Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB), Manhattan, Kan.
Beef producers will face challenges in price volatility, high cost of production and global impact on their product, but consumers will increasingly pay more for better-quality product.
“Beef producers today are at a crossroads trying to decide whether to stay commodity-focused or brand-focused,” Corah said in remarks prepared for the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle (ARSBC) Symposium Aug. 31-Sept. 1 in Joplin, Mo.
Already, consumers identify quality with the USDA quality grades such as Prime and Choice, Corah says. But the tenderness and flavor must be consistent.
Producers who stick with the commodity track must become more proficient and willing to sell at lower prices. Brand-focused producers will likely receive more dollars, but they may lose some flexibility in their management.
Corah promotes what he calls “The Missouri Recipe” for quality beef production. The recipe is based on research at the University of Missouri (MU) Thompson Farm, Spickard, Mo.
Research from the last 15 years was led by David Patterson, MU Extension beef specialist and conference co-host. The MU commercial beef herd now produces 100% Choice grade or higher in steers fed out for market.
The secret of success is using high-accuracy proven sires by fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI).
“When trying to create a positive eating experience while still generating a profit for the producer, the ‘right’ genetics is step one in hitting the quality target,” Corah says.
Choose genetics that lead to marbling in the beef, he adds. Sire selection is easier now with the genetic information from marbling expected progeny differences (EPDs) and genetic indexes such as $B. Using the data helps sort among the wide variations among bulls.
“A key to success in the Missouri Recipe has been effective use of artificial insemination,” Corah says. “This allows for use of proven genetics beyond marbling.”
Cattle from the MU Thompson Farm herd now regularly grade 85% CAB and Prime. Early adopters among Missouri herds are beating the MU record already. Nationally, cattle at packing plants average just over 3% Prime grade.
Mike Kasten, a rancher from Millersville, Mo., will appear on the conference program to share his herd records. His premium bonuses average more than $177 per calf, long run.
“Missourians say they can do better,” Corah says. He noted that nationally, the Certified Angus Beef acceptance rate runs 22%-24%.
“A realistic goal would be 35%-40%,” he adds.
In his notes, Corah details the recipe package, which goes far beyond genetics to include herd health, nutrition, breeding for uniformity, preweaning vaccinations, preconditioning and total management all the way through marketing. Development of replacement heifers is a key part of the Missouri Recipe.
In another part of the program, speakers will report on visits to ranches in South America, Patterson says. “Brazil now dominates the commodity beef market. Those who choose to raise commodity beef will compete with the low-cost producers of the world.
“The progress Brazil is making on premium beef will amaze U.S. producers,” Patterson adds.
The conference will be at the Joplin Expo Center, which survived the deadly tornado of May 22. A field trip will go to the Joplin Regional Stockyards, Carthage, Mo., for demonstrations and a grilled steak dinner.
“The Missouri Recipe” will be featured the first day of the ARSBC Symposium, Aug. 31-Sept. 1. Details are available online at www.appliedreprostrategies.com. Compiled by Angus Productions Inc. (API; publisher of the Angus Journal and the Angus Beef Bulletin), the site is made possible through sponsorship by the Beef Reproductive Task Force, SEK Genetics, and liveauctions.tv. Coverage will include summaries of the speaker presentation, PowerPoints, proceedings and audio.