Beef Buzz News
Beef Marketing Group CEO Sees Significant Opportunities for Verifiable Beef StandardsTue, 22 May 2012 14:32:28 CDT
Ron Hays caught up with John Butler, CEO of the Beef Marketing Group at the Alltech International Symposium in Lexington Kentucky. The Beef Marketing Group represents feedlots in Kansas and Nebraska.
Butler said his organization has completed a research project encompassing 2,000 consumers about their understanding and attitudes about beef. He said his group has learned a lot that will help them more effectively market their product which, consumers said, is not cattle, it’s beef.
“I think that that’s one thing that we as an entire industry have to accept: we are accountable to a consumer. And the consumer, for the most part, doesn’t understand cattle, they understand beef. And so we have a responsibility and a commitment to be focused on what they need, what they are asking for, and what we can produce for them to satisfy their expectations.”
Butler said he was particularly interested in the opinions and ideas of current beef consumers and focusing on unfulfilled expectations that they had. He said they found there were several things the beef industry could do in the areas of consistency, verification of food safety, animal care and sustainability.
He said consumers are interested in measurable, verifiable standards and that he sees great opportunities for producers who are able to deliver against a verifiable system.
He said his group has been working on a verifications system, “much like a CPA would audit the books of a company so it’s not your CFO doing it, it’s an outsider--against standards.
“Understand that standards can be developed in each of these areas that I mentioned-food safety, animal care and sustainability-and then we as an industry can implement against those standards and be audited by a third party. And in this case, we’ve actually gone through the effort to make sure that auditor is USDA certified.”
He said that though their efforts are just in the early stages of being implemented, there are already payoffs. “We’ve gained more and more interest around the cattle that have been able to come through this system. The end users we’re working with-retailers and food service-want more transparency in where their food is coming from and this kind of system allows that to happen.”
Butler said there is also interest from some customers regarding source verification.
“There are a number of consumers, both domestically and internationally, that have become accustomed to the verification of that source and are willing to recognize that with additional value. I believe that verification will be there both domestically and internationally.”
Butler said there were also some challenges to the beef industry that have to be tackled at the same time like the recent LFTB hysteria. He said there a things the industry can do to turn the tide and help prevent media feeding frenzies like that in the future.
“I think we have to do a better job of being prepared. That one caught us off guard. We let the media get a hold of that and spin it in a direction that was derogatory towards our product and production. It’s a completely safe product. It’s a product that allows us to produce a wholesome protein for consumers at less cost. Now, that’s basically gone. So the result is that hamburger is going to be more expensive and really for no reason.
“The answer, I believe, is to get in front of these issues before they happen. When you play defense it’s always catch up and you can never catch up. Like this case.”
He said he does think the industry will indeed catch up on the LFTB issue.
“I think so. I really think so. It’s just going to take a lot of education. We’ve got to get with the end users and make sure they are familiar with the exact process and then they need to help us communicate and educate with the media and the consumer and maybe even the social media so that we’ve got a mechanism that assures the consumer the product is safe, is wholesome, and is a great value.”
You can hear Ron Hays' full conversation with John Butler by pressing the LISTEN BAR below.
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