Beef’s a trip day 27: On the taste bud trail
During my first pregnancy as my doctor set out to prescribe prenatal vitamins, he tried to survey the amount of iron I get naturally in my diet.
“How often do you eat red meat?”
“Hmm..at least two times a day,” I replied.
“You mean twice a week, right?’
“No. Usually two times a day.”
The facial expression that followed leads me to believe that he was either jealous or he’d never heard that response before. (Truth told, it was probably both!)
We joke around the office about being beef snobs. We know what we like and working for CAB has really refined our tastes, so when we do talk about “the average consumer” we look to some good, unbiased research.
We’ve hit all the major stops in the production chain, so today we’re going to take a look at what influences consumer’s beef buying habits. I get to write about this. A lot. It kind of matters to our bottom line. A lot.
So here are some things I’ve picked up from the experts:
- Meat scientist Mark Miller and his team at Texas Tech recently did a study with beef strips: “We’ve found that marbling level has a really big impact on the consumer’s desire for beef. Tenderness is by far the most important factor, but once a steak meets a consumer’s threshold for tenderness, then flavor becomes the sole driver.” Surveys reveal more than 91% of the beef in today’s retail case meets tenderness expectations.
- The National Beef Quality Audit, conducted every five years, sent a clear signal again in its most recent results: Target-consumer consensus suggested an ideal mix of 5% Prime and 31% Premium Choice. Actual production levels for all beef in those categories during 2011 was 2% and 20%, 14 points short of expectations. “If producers get the right signal, and they are pretty good managers, they can hit the target,” said Keith Belk, Colorado State University meat scientist. “But they have to have the right signal.”
- To that point, we often say that consumers vote with their wallet. Economist Ted Schroeder is a beef demand guru and he agrees. “Beef demand woes historically have surrounded quality issues with beef products. We needed to start offering customers a more predictable eating experience or we were going to see continually declining demand. Higher quality and branded products do that or they don’t last. If they don’t deliver consistently they’re out of the game.”
- Schroeder and his team came up with a CAB demand index that helps quantify that. It points to a 70% increase in CAB demand from 2002 to 2011, with Choice up a modest 15%.
We keep hearing this mantra: marbling is important. The amount of it helps determine how much beef people will buy and at what price. And how likely they are to tell a friend about it.
Daryl Tatum at Colorado State University has done lots and lots of work on this front, so I’ll let him sum it up:
May your bottom line be filled with black ink,
Day 1: Starting at day one
Day 2: Who are these people?
Day 3: Stockholders
Day 4: The cowherd’s purpose
Day 5: Deciding to care
Day 7: Stocking for quality
Day 8: SOLD!
Day 9: What have you done today?
Day 11: Keep on truckin’
Day 12: Packers want quality
Day 13: The target
Day 14: Packers up close & personal
Day 15: It’s not all about the beef
Day 16: Further processors
Day 18: He’s on your team
Day 20: Getting quality in the carts
Day 22: Grab hands, give thanks
Day 23: Beef Insurance
Day 24: What chefs want
Day 25: By land, sea, or sky
Day 26: Quality fans across the globe
PS—Have you been on over to “30 days on a Prairie Farm”? The series continues, and there you’ll also find a full list of all of those writing their way through November about various ag topics. Enjoy!