NCBA Celebrates 35 Years of Beef Checkoff Successes
July 26, 2021
CENTENNIAL, Colo. – As the Beef Checkoff celebrates its 35th anniversary, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, is shining a light on the successful promotion and research programs that drive the demand for beef. Many consumers recognize the Beef. It’s What’s Dinner. brand and iconic “Rodeo” music, however, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to bring beef from pasture to plate.
With 78% of consumers agreeing that beef is great tasting and a great source of protein1, no matter how you slice it (across the grain, please), beef is delicious and nutritious. And, although consumers may be familiar with well-known cuts like Ribeye, Sirloin and Brisket, many may not realize how years of product development research have identified new and innovative favorites such as the Flat Iron Steak and Petite Tender, adding value to the chuck and middle meats.
The Product Quality Research program includes the study of beef quality, muscle traits and characterization, carcass traits, muscle tenderness and yield, flavor and palatability, and new technologies. The overall goal of this Checkoff-funded research is to improve beef quality, consistency, value and demand.
“Product development research has been extremely beneficial to producers over the years,” said Dr. Torri Lienemann, Nebraska producer and co-chair of the Safety & Product Innovation Checkoff Committee. “By identifying new cuts and improving the customer experience, overall carcass value has increased, and that value would not have been captured without Checkoff funding.”
The chuck and round represent the largest portions of the beef carcass, however, in the early 2000s the value of these two primals was on the decline. Research was funded through the Beef Checkoff to find ways to increase the use of cuts from these primals, which would subsequently increase their value. An NCBA-managed project ranked muscles throughout the carcass by tenderness then tested moist and dry cooking techniques, which helped to identify “hidden” cuts that could potentially be marketed to consumers. One of the most popular products to come out of this work was the Flat Iron Steak.
After identifying this new cut, the challenge became getting foodservice and retail buy-in, introducing it to consumers and educating the public. Checkoff funding assisted with those efforts as well with NCBA developing promotions with retail partners, offering cutting charts and videos for the industry, and working closely with foodservice operators to drive demand for the new product.
Since tenderness is one of the primary quality indicators consumers look for in their steak when dining out2, restaurants soon realized that the Flat Iron, which is extremely tender, well-marbled and a flavorful piece of meat that is also affordable for customers, is a good menu option. As the cut drew attention on restaurant menus across the country, consumers started asking for it by name at grocery stores as well. Aided by consumer word of mouth, the cut’s popularity grew organically from there.
Finding new ways to fabricate the underutilized chuck created more opportunities for profitability across the value-chain, demonstrating the power of research and product development. Now the once unfamiliar muscle has a well-known name, recognized by consumers on restaurant menus and in meat cases across the country. For more information, visit www.beefresearch.org.
1 Consumer Beef Tracker; Jan-Dec 2020; conducted by Direction’s research; analyzed and summarized by NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff
2 Steak Preferences Report 2020; Dynata Platform; administered, analyzed, and summarized by NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff