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35 YEARS: Beef Checkoff Program focus of convention events

DENVER, CO – Thirty-five years ago, the Beef Checkoff program became a reality. The Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB), the organization responsible for overseeing Beef Checkoff collection and program funding, will celebrate the program’s anniversary during the upcoming Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, August 10-12.

Established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill, the Beef Checkoff is funded by producers and beef importers who pay a $1-per-head assessment on animals they market or import. The national marketing and research program has one primary goal: driving demand for beef. For more than three decades, the Checkoff and its contractors have been the force behind many beef industry milestones that have influenced how beef is purchased and consumed. A timeline featuring some of the Checkoff’s most noteworthy successes over the past 35 years is available on the CBB’s website, DrivingDemandForBeef.com.

Hugh Sandburg

“Thanks to the farmers and ranchers who’ve funded this program over the years, we’ve been able to help improve beef quality and shelf life, identify and control pathogens like E. coli and launch many memorable beef marketing campaigns,” said Hugh Sanburg, 2021 Chair of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. “All of those accomplishments and many others continue to contribute to beef’s ongoing popularity in the competitive protein marketplace.”

At the Cattle Industry Convention, the CBB will host a number of activities to mark the Beef Checkoff’s 35th anniversary, including a video montage of the program’s history and achievements during the convention’s Opening General Session on Tuesday, August 10. At that time, the CBB will also announce the recipient of the first-ever Checkoff Visionary Award, an honor that will go to someone in the beef industry who has demonstrated exemplary support of and commitment to the Checkoff’s goals and vision. On Wednesday evening, August 11, the CBB will host a Checkoff 35th Anniversary Celebration Reception following a day of committee meetings.

“This anniversary has shined a spotlight on how different the beef industry would be if the Beef Checkoff had never come to fruition,” said Greg Hanes, CEO of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. “Certainly, the Checkoff has united producers, beef industry organizations and other stakeholders together with the common purpose of driving beef demand. With their ongoing support, we believe that the Beef Checkoff can continue to positively impact the beef industry for many more years to come.”

For more information about the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, the Beef Checkoff and its programs –promotion, research, foreign marketing, industry information, consumer information and safety – visit DrivingDemandforBeef.com.

Since 1986, the producer-led program has covered a lot of ground to help keep beef the protein of choice among consumers, creating a breadth and depth of work worth noting, including these highlights:

  • 1987: Launch of the award-winning “Beef: Real Food for Real People” ad campaign
  • 1990: R&D introduces low-fat ground beef, which McDonald’s uses in the new McLean Deluxe hamburger
  • Early ‘90s: Checkoff-funded BQA program begins at the state level
  • 1992: Launch of the award-winning “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” ad campaign
  • 1994: Following a beef-linked E. coli outbreak, research with packing plants and food safety experts helps develop new spray washes to reduce pathogens and prevent future contamination
  • 1994: The first sale of U.S.-produced beef is made to China
  • 1997: A microbial-mapping study identifies Critical Entry Points for pathogens at packing plants; high-temperature vacuuming removing contaminants from carcasses becomes the new industry standard
  • Late ‘90s: Groundbreaking muscle profiling research adds overall carcass value by reinventing the previously underutilized chuck and round portions
  • 2000: Launch of TV ads featuring Aaron Copland’s “Hoe-Down” and actor Sam Elliot’s voice highlight prepared beef items and increase sales by 131%
  • 2003: When BSE is discovered in the U.S., the Checkoff partners with USDA and industry/food safety experts to reassure American consumers of protocols in place to prevent the disease from entering the food supply
  • 2006: Amid BSE concerns in Japan, the largest export market for U.S. beef, USMEF launches “We Care” to demonstrate beef’s safety and quality and rebuild trust among Japanese consumers; the campaign helps return American beef sales to Japan to pre-BSE levels of $1.5 billion annually
  • 2010: Launch of the Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program
  • 2012: The Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet study shows lean beef as part of a heart-healthy diet is as effective in lowering heart disease risk as the DASH diet
  • 2015: Advertising drives more than 2.2 million site visits to BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com, a 29% increase over FY14
  • 2017: Efforts to refresh the Beef Category on Amazon Fresh Prime increases beef units sold by 16%
  • 2018: Culinary debut of Beefshi, sushi using beef instead of fish
  • 2019: Beef production courses are introduced nationwide to middle and high school science classes
  • 2020: A “lost year” for many industries due to COVID, the Checkoff helps contractors nimbly adapt programming to help push beef demand to record highs; total meat sales volume at retail climb 10% and total dollar sales at retail rise 18%
  • 2020: For the first time ever, new U.S. dietary guidelines include recommendations for foods such as beef as a healthy complementary food for babies and toddlers
  • 2021: The message spreads about U.S. producers’ sustainability efforts, including how today’s cattle are yielding 66% more beef per animal with fewer resources


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