The beef industry is going high-tech.
The beef checkoff program, established as part of the Food Security Act of 1985, is going digital to appeal to a newer and younger generation of cattle farmers.
The program promotes educated decisions for investing producers’ and importers’ money into effective programs, according to beefboard.org.
The Cattlemen’s Beef Board, a federal organization, and the United States Department of Agriculture oversee the collection and spending of checkoff funds. The program is paid for by beef sales. For every head of cattle that goes through the sale barn, one dollar is taken and put toward the program.
Melissa Slagle, media manager of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board in Centennial, Colo., said that she has watched the beef industry grow and promote itself more through the program.
Geographic targeting has allowed the checkoff program to focus on consumers, and target those who are most likely to have the best effect on beef demand.
“Consumers are changing so much these days,” Slagle said. “When consumers are at the store, they’re standing in front of a meat case with their cell phone and they’re looking up new recipes on their phone. We are now able to reach those consumers. The kick-off to this new digital campaign begins with a data-centered approach focused on consumers according to their buying trends in their area of living.”
The beef checkoff program, like many other organizations, acknowledges that social media is one of the fastest growing forms of communication. Today’s generation of ranchers is also more likely to share their experiences widely, especially through online social networks, Slagle said.
“We need to reach these people via social media, Facebook, YouTube, that’s where they’re getting their information and making their purchasing decisions,” Slagle said.
The shift to approved digital consumer advertising for the “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” campaign is underway. The goal now is to drive the important and growing millennial generation toward beef.
While some producers express mixed opinions about the idea of the program going completely digital, many producers agree that it is useful and serves the American beef producer to the best of its ability.
The Shive cattle family in Mount Hope, Kan., has been a supporter of the checkoff program since it started. They continue to support the program through the digital change.
“The beef checkoff is valuable to all ranchers because, no matter the size of your cattle herd, we all have to market our product to some portion of the population,” said Eric Shive, a member of the family cattle operation. “Likewise, going digital has unlimited potential from anti-theft to reproduction and record keeping.”
Monte Morgan, a cattle ranch operator from Deerfield, Kan., has a different point of view on the beef checkoff program making the digital transition. He said he feels it may not fit in with the average way a rancher spends their days.
“If I am out in a pasture, I’m not in support of using technology,” Morgan said. “But if I’m sitting at my desk at home, it is a great thing to have. If it does not fit well with outside of the office, I’m not going to like it.”
Lance Cline of Onaga Kan., said that he believes the beef industry will be able to benefit through digital promotion and advertising. He said he understands the typical consumer is becoming more knowledgable of technology, and that the beef industry relies on the new generation to sustain the industry.
“By going digital in 2014 and switching focus to the millennial generation as well as switching to much more social media and mobile advertising, it will be a much more cost effective mode of getting the message to the consumer in their preferred method of receiving information in the future,” Cline said.