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University of Idaho

Improving Marketing Effectiveness of the Beef Industry in the U.S.:

Communication Campaign

Stephen Tamm

Goals and Objectives
The intent of the communication is to instill in beef producers an urgent drive to contribute to
U.S. beef industry marketing efforts. The apathy expressed by industry producers in regards to
marketing has driven the demand for beef in the U.S. into a downward spiral and placed the
future of U.S. beef production in considerable jeopardy. A 40-year negative trend in demand has
resulted in beef losing its place as the most sought-after meat product in the U.S. Since 1993,
poultry has become the primary meat product for domestic consumption, and demand for beef
has continued to plummet (Earth Policy Institute, 2012). The pattern is alarming and threatens
the future of domestic beef production.
Through awareness, acceptance, and action on the part of domestic beef producers, an effort can
be made to reverse this trend and help to salvage the future of beef production. Beef producers
must connect in a way that brings forth education about the necessity for a marketing overhaul
along with modern, realistic marketing basics. Spreading awareness of the problem would be the
initial objective. It is likely that ignorance throughout the industry regarding actual market
dynamics is part of the fundamental problem. Spreading awareness without acceptance by the
key players would be futile, so interaction with producers throughout the U.S. becomes a
necessity. Only when beef producers begin to accept the fact that beef demand is in dire straits
will the motivation to make a change come about. The final objective is to provide beef
producers with the resources needed to make their efforts at marketing effective. Success of this
campaign would be indicated by the actions of beef producers in fervently and diligently striving
to put forth a new image for beef.
The ultimate goal of this campaign is long-term in the sense of applying new marketing
strategies to the U.S. consumer population. This will likely take years as collaboration by many
groups and individuals will be necessary. Ideally, the public would be familiar with modern beef
marketing in no more than 5 years. The goal of this initial communication plan, however, is
short-term. The effort that must come forth from beef producers in contributing to new
marketing strategies needs to occur immediately. Measures taken towards educating individuals
within the beef sector on marketing should take no more than 6 months.

The audience that must be reached with this communication is the bulk of beef producers in the
U.S. The agriculture industry, particularly the beef production sector, is different from most in
that production is spread out amongst thousands of private operations. Under the current system,
which could be regarded as conventional beef production, beef cows are kept by ranchers who
raise and market calves. Calves are bought by ranchers known as stocker operators or cattle
feeders. Ranchers and cattle feeders typically exist as small private operators. The raising of
beef animals in thus spread amongst thousands of individuals who are not under corporate
control and have the freedom to make choices as they see fit. It is not until slaughter and
processing of animals occurs that the industry becomes consolidated. The slaughter industry is
highly consolidated, as only four companies (Tyson Foods, Inc., JBS Co., Cargill Meat
Solutions, and National Beef LLC) control over 90% of the industry (NCBA, 2015).
The focus of communication efforts needs to be the individuals throughout the U.S. involved
with actual animal production. These producers are vulnerable to declining demand as a
shrinking consumer market creates an overabundance in cattle supply for beef packers.
Excessive supply makes the industry increasingly competitive and brings down the value of
cattle for producers. Because of their exposure to a weakening market, beef producers involved
with raising animals must be proactive in overhauling beef marketing strategies. This cannot
simply be left to packers under the assumption that packers deal directly with consumers.
Because beef animal production exists as a highly privatized industry scattered throughout the
entire U.S., individual producers must come together with a unified strategy on marketing.
Individuals at all levels of production must unite and operate together to effectively move
forward as an industry. Although U.S. beef production occurs in all 50 states, the bulk of
production is consolidated in regions with the most favorable conditions. Reaching out to beef
producers in the most consolidated regions is the most efficient way of initiating the changes
needed to reach the ultimate objectives of this communication. Over half of the U.S. beef calfproducing cow herd exists in just seven states: Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma,
South Dakota, and Texas (USDA NASS, 2015-1). The vast majority of cattle feeding in the U.S.

is consolidated in only five states: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas (USDA NASS,
Reaching out to the bulk of beef producers in the U.S. can be accomplished by targeting
producers in these nine states alone. An important demographic consideration to be made in
reaching out to beef producers, as well, is that beef production and large urban areas do not
typically mix well. Beef production is unsightly and unfavorable to real estate value. Because of
this, the effort made to reach out to beef producers should be focused on small cities and rural
areas rather than large cities. For example, when considering which newspapers in Colorado
may be best for reaching out to the largest concentration of beef producers, Denver would best
be ignored. News outlets in cities such as Lamar and La Junta would be much more appropriate.
One final consideration to be made regarding beef producer demographics is that the nature of
the industry leaves many beef producing operations in the hands of families. This means that
reaching target audiences of all ages can be effective, and no specific age group should be given
greater priority than others.

U.S. Beef Cows that Have Calved (1000 head)






South Dakota



Figure 1 Overview of the most concentrated beef calf producing states in the U.S. between
2014 and 2015. 55% of the U.S. beef cow herd exists in these seven states alone. Source: USDA
National Agriculture Statistics Service

U.S. Cattle on Feed (1000 head)













Figure 2 Overview of the most concentrated cattle feeding states in the U.S. between 2014
and 2015. 73% of cattle on feed in the U.S. exist in these five states alone. Source: USDA
National Agriculture Statistics Service
Beef has lost its place as the most sought-after meat product in the U.S after yielding to poultry
in 1993 (Eather Policy Institute, 2012). A trend toward alternative dietary protein sources has
been occurring for almost 40 years and shows no sign of relenting. After modern commercial
cattle production practices became widespread in the 1940s, beef dominated the marketplace for
decades as the primary source of meat consumed by Americans. Consumers moved away from
pork during this era and fueled massive expansion in the business of beef production. While
poultry claimed a much smaller share of the U.S. consumer market during the 1950s and 1960s,
the increase in consumption during these decades paralleled that of beef. The pattern is alarming
in regards to the future of domestic beef production. Without an immediate overhaul in the
marketing efforts of beef producers, opportunities simply will not exist in this industry in the
years to come.

The shrinking size of the beef industry, as evidenced through closures of packing facilities and
feedlots alongside the diminishing domestic cattle inventory, has already caused a substantial
negative impact on many lives as opportunities in the beef production industry have disappeared.
If changes are not made immediately to generate increased market appeal for beef on a largescale level, these opportunities will continue to subside. Employees who have invested a lifetime
into beef production positions and industry experts alike will be forced to search for work
outside the beef industry with a relatively useless background. Families that have turned over
business matters from one generation to the next will be forced to leave traditions behind and
take on a new way of life. As these unfortunate events are already playing out in the U.S. today,
the urgency with which beef producers must enhance marketability cannot be overstated.
The fundamental messages that need to reach producers are these:
1. -Demand for beef in the U.S. has consistently declined for 40 years.
2. -The future of U.S. beef production is in real jeopardy, and a means of driving
consumer demand must be created immediately.
3. -Marketing beef is an obligation shared by all producers.
4. -Beef is not being sold to the neighbors. The consumer market exists elsewhere.
An ideal spokesperson for this campaign would be a recognizable beef producer such as a writer
for a highly-circulated beef industry magazine. A politician from an agricultural sector of
government could potentially serve well in this position also, but that individual should still
personally be a beef producer. The most important aspect of identifying a successful
spokesperson is that the individual must have a stake in the matter. Beef producers will be much
more open to hearing and taking action on the message of an individual that they feel shares
common ground. A movie actor or musician or some other sort of celebrity, like those who are
often selected to play the role of spokesperson for important issues, would not be a good choice
for the position because beef producers would probably not respond to an individual who they
feel is out of touch with their industry. Thus, a beef producer with a solid reputation in the
industry would be the best candidate for a spokesperson.

Media List
The first step in putting forward information about beef marketing would be the creation and
regular maintenance of a website. This would be a resource for beef producers who are made
aware of the situation to visit and learn what can be done. The website should have a
thoughtfully-designed message board allowing users to interact and share ideas. This website
would also contain informative articles and video clips about marketing strategies taught by
marketing professionals to allow beef producers to gain more insight on the subject and to feel
more in touch with communities outside of their own.
Because the beef industry exists predominantly in rural regions of Colorado, Iowa, Kansas,
Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas and is often structured
around families, different forms of media will be necessary for reaching the target audience.
One aspect of life and business in rural areas is that long drives become a part of peoples regular
routine. As such, radio is a regular source of entertainment and information. A radio campaign
would be a very effective method of reaching out to beef producers in the regions of focus.
Several radio stations, especially those in rural areas, broadcast nationally-syndicated
programming. Buying airtime on these programs would allow the message to be heard by
producers all throughout the country. A few examples of networks that distribute nationally
broadcast programming are (particular state programming is often broadcast nationwide):
-AgriTalk Radio, Mission, KS
-American Ag Network, Fargo, ND
-Kansas Ag Network, Topeka, KS
-Texas State Networks, Dallas, TX
Utilizing these syndicated radio sources could be done in a few ways. The most cost-effective
strategy would be to purchase 30-second commercial segments. This could be a fairly effective
strategy if the intention was to direct people to the website to follow-up on the situation. The
more expensive alternative that would be much more effective in capturing the attention of beef
producers would be to purchase longer airtime segments (2-3 minutes). These longer segments

would allow for more information to be passed over the air and probably have a greater overall
effect on listener response.
Television campaigning could be done in much the same way. Purchasing advertising spots on
syndicated programs such as Ag Day (Farm Journal Media, Rosemont, IL) would help to spread
the message to a large audience. Purchasing airtime on smaller local networks could be a hit-ormiss strategy because of the rural nature of the industry. Beef producers are most likely
interested in the agriculture programs above all else. RFD-TV is a national network broadcast on
both DirecTV and Dish Network. This is a very popular network amongst beef producers as it is
a trusted news source and information outlet for agricultural issues. Purchasing advertising time
on RFD-TV shows such as Rural Evening News and Ag Day would likely be fruitful. Another
possible means of reaching out to beef producers would be to appeal to the producers of the
RFD-TV shows Cattlemen to Cattlemen, The Angus Report, and Rural America Live to
incorporate the issues of beef demand and marketing into the programming because this is truly
an industry issue.
The third type of media that would be useful in reaching out to beef producers is printed media.
A full-page article appearing regularly in the magazine BEEF would be seen by thousands
throughout the industry. Newspapers, both nationally circulated and local, would also be
effective advertising media because many beef producers turn to newspapers for market
information and current affairs. Examples of syndicated newspapers of interest for this
campaign are:
-Capital Ag Press (Salem, OR)
-Drovers Cattle Network (Lenexa, KS)
-High Plains Journal (Dodge City, KS)
Examples of local newspapers throughout the regions that would be appropriate for targeting
beef producers include:
-Amarillo Globe-News (Amarillo, TX)
-La Junta Tribune (La Junta, CO)

-Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, NE)

-Dodge Globe (Dodge, KS)
-The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, IA)
-Woodward News (Woodward, OK)
-Shannon County Current Wave (Winona, MO)
-Rapid City Journal (Rapid City, SD)
As with television campaigning, utilizing newspapers to reach out to beef producers could be
done in a variety of ways. The simplest method would be to purchase advertising space. This
would be costly and questionable in terms of overall effectiveness. Reaching out to newspaper
editors with information on the crisis concerning beef demand could be more effective as this
may lead to the generation of feature articles which would be received better by readers.

Advertising agency
production cost printed
Advertising agency
production cost
recorded audio
Advertising agency
production cost
recorded video
Press package prepared
for distribution
















Website hosting
monthly (domain


60 months


Advertising fees


3 spots/day x 15 days
(45 total)





30-second television spot


1 spot/day x 15 days
(15 total)


Newspaper half-page
(estimate based on
national distribution in
High Plains Journal)


2/week x 4 weeks
(8 total)


Total Budget:


Distribution of pressrelated materials

Website development

30-second radio spot

(syndicated national
2-minute radio spot
(syndicated national


Estimated Timeframe


6 Months

Development Radio Ad

14 Days

Development Newspaper Ad

1 Week

Development Television Ad

45 Days


1 Month


1 Month


1 Month

Target Audiene
Response and
Website, Radio,
TV, etc.
Total Project

12 Months

Other Considerations
Creation of written and
video material by
experts, editing and
revisions, domain name
decisions, server issues,
Time for agency
neogiations, and
Extra time for agency
selection and
Post-production time
considerations/ time for
agency consideration
and negotiations
15 broadcast days
distributed over 1
month following
Weekly advertisments
for 1 month following
15 broadcast days
distributed over 1
month following
Website must be
thorough before
launching ad campaign.
Interaction time will


9 Months

1 Month

1 Month

3 Months

2 Months

2 Months

4 Months

1 Year

1 Year


Website Visitation:
Has visitation frequency (visits per day)
increased steadily since the site was


Was the target website visitation total of

100,000 visits achieved within the 1-year


Are media outlets discussing the issue of
beef marketing in the U.S. with an implied


Are thoughtful and creative discussion

topics being posted to the website
discussion board?


Have beef production interest groups such
as NCBA and state organizations
incorporated the topic of marketing into
future meetings and conferences?


Have beef producers throughout the U.S.

begun to reach out through editorials,
interviews, and planned meetings
regarding the marketing isssue?


Have any new committees or

organizations been formed with the
specific purpose of rennovating beef


Is a new beef marketing campaign in place

in the U.S.?


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