WASHINGTON — The following commentary is provided by Joan Ruskamp, Cattlemen’s Beef Board Vice-Chair.
On the heels of Thanksgiving and with Christmas just on the horizon, many of us are thinking about lists and what we are grateful for. Family, friends and good health are at the top of my gratitude list. And beef producers like my husband Steve and I would also include the Beef Checkoff Program to that list. Why? Let’s look at just one of the many ways the $1-per-head checkoff makes a difference in our lives.
Reaching Beyond Our Shores
We are truly grateful the checkoff has a focus on developing a global marketplace for U.S. beef. Checkoff dollars invested in international markets have increased from 10.7 percent of the budget in 2008 to nearly 18 percent of the budget in 2017. That growth has happened because exports represent the largest opportunity for us to build beef demand; 95 percent of the global populations lives outside U.S. borders.
I am also grateful for the added value that selling underutilized cuts to foreign markets brings to the beef carcass. We export cuts like liver, tongue and tripe – items we don’t often eat here in the U.S. but are very popular overseas. Because of that, beef producers are receiving more than $250-per-head in value due to increased global exports of U.S. beef in key markets like Japan, Mexico, Canada and South Korea.
One thing we do here on our own farm to promote beef is host tours of our feedlot. This past summer we hosted a group of young men from Israel. The Israelis were very interested in how cattle were finished here as the market had just reopened to U.S. beef in Israel.
While we toured the feedlot, an order buyer for the packing plant that sends beef to Israel came to look at cattle we had on the show list. The Israelis were able to ask questions about how the plant handled the cattle to meet their specifications. This tour gave us a unique opportunity to open up our farm to international guests who could then relay the accurate beef story back to their own country. And it was all made possible by the relationships the checkoff has forged between producers and consumers.
Impacting My Farm and Yours
Beef producers are used to facing challenges like weather and markets, but additional burdens have been placed on us as beef has become a target for negative messages around issues such as heart disease and cancer. How were farmers and ranchers going to join the conversation unless they had the research to promote the safety of beef and educate consumers about its nutritional value?
The Beef Checkoff Program has been the answer to the beef community’s need for scientific, unbiased information to defend our industry against these attacks.
Right now, beef is showing up in health magazines as a good choice for those seeking to live healthy lifestyles. The positive story of the beef lifecycle is circulating through more and more discussions about sustainability. The ability to tell the great story of beef and the amazing people who produce it is possible because of the framework put in place by our checkoff program.
The checkoff offers something we all value – relationships. It truly is a family of producers focused on building beef demand so more people can live healthier lives. And, by working together across our beef community, the checkoff has been able to show our sustainability efforts.
I am grateful for the hundreds of producers, staff and contractors who work very hard to increase the demand for beef at home and around the world. Our relationships with each other can be our strength, and as we celebrate this time of year, I will add that to my gratitude list. I wish you all a blessed holiday season!
To learn more about your checkoff investment, visit MyBeefCheckoff.com.
Cattlemen’s Beef Board Vice-Chair
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