Farm Talk

Ag News from Around the Country

July 17, 2012

Pleasing consumers key to BQA

Parsons, Kansas — Eating satisfaction rules when it comes to making beef lovers happy.

That was clear in early results from the 2011 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA), but defining that satisfaction seemed harder to pinpoint.

“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.”

One constant beacon comes from the Q-word in that audit, which has run every five years since 1991: people at every link in the beef chain want quality. A call for more Prime and premium Choice beef rang out, with the target-consumer consensus suggesting five percent and 31 percent, respectively. Actual production levels for all beef in those categories during 2011 was two percent and 20 percent, 14 points short of expectations.

Science has proven marbling at those levels brings increased eating satisfaction, so it’s no surprise that the NBQA showed consumers want more of that beef.

The audit format asks customers who buy feeder calves, fed cattle, beef carcasses, subprimals and variety meats to define seven quality attributes. Those included food safety, eating satisfaction, cattle genetics, visual characteristics, how and where cattle were raised, lean, fat, weight and size. Once ranked, the survey burrowed deeper into the meaning and value of each.

On the production end, feeders, packers and allied industry ranked “tenderness” as the top definition for eating satisfaction, followed by “good beef flavor.” Respondents in the foodservice and retail industries had it just the other way around.  

“We need to continue striving toward improving eating satisfaction, and there will be an emphasis on flavor there,” Belk said. “Flavor has pulled to the top; once you have satisfactory tenderness, then flavor is all of a sudden elevated in its relative importance.”

In foodservice, 63 percent of respondents favored flavor as their definition, while 52 percent said tenderness and 29 percent called it customer satisfaction.

“This was the first year that we saw flavor mentioned more importantly than tenderness,” said Deb VanOverbeke, Oklahoma State University animal scientist. “Flavor really was emphasized by the end users, but it is still defined differently among those who are buying live cattle.”

All NBQA respondents were purchasers of live animals or beef product, and VanOverbeke said that divide reflects their views on the resale value of each quality term. In this era of branded beef programs that reward higher quality and consumer-based targets, performance further down the chain has become more valuable.

“They are looking at where to filter the product in once it is in their system,” she said, “trying to determine how to best spend and best capture each dollar.”

The terms by which eating satisfaction was defined may have differed among the segments, but their pursuit of that dollar never wavered. A new aspect of the study brought to light beef buyers’ willingness to pay for the traits they found most important.

While only two percent of those who purchase live cattle said that eating satisfaction was a requirement they must have in order to buy, nearly half of them said they’d pay a premium of 11.4 percent to guarantee that quality. That premium level ranked number one in the amount packers and feeders said they would pay above base price to guarantee any quality attribute.

VanOverbeke said readiness to pay that premium on the live-animal side may correlate to another term the NBQA worked to define: cattle genetics. Packers, feeders, retailers and foodservice professionals defined “cattle genetics” for quality as a predominantly black hide. Four out of five listed “genetic potential for marbling” as their second-ranked term.

Those definitions likely pertained to feeders who are supplying branded beef programs, she explained: “If they know what those genetics are going to get them, they might pay a premium for those cattle because of how they typically perform.”

More than 20 percent of respondents closest to end users said “eating satisfaction” was an absolute requirement for purchasing. That quality had the highest share (47 percent) of respondents willing to pay extra as well—about 11 percent more—to guarantee it.

Belk said taking a whole-industry perspective from the survey illuminates a clear path the success: “If you align a supply chain that addresses a specific consumer target and has specific process control all the way up and down the chain to address that target, then the whole system is more profitable.”

VanOverbeke agreed the bottom line comes down to tying all those surveyed industry segments together: “If you know who your customer is and you know what they are looking for, you are more likely to target some premiums that you might be able to earn by doing a few things differently.”

Text Only
Ag News from Around the Country
  • BLM under fire for slaughter horses

    The Bureau of Land Management rounded up a horse herd that roamed for decades on federal land in northwest Wyoming and handed the horses over to Wyoming officials. They, in turn, sold the herd to the highest bidder, a Canadian slaughterhouse.

    April 22, 2014

  • Feds release cattle

    U.S. authorities released 400 or so head of cattle rounded up on public land from a rancher who refused to recognize their authority, in a dispute that drew hundreds of protesters to his defense and fueled a debate over state and federal land rights.

    April 15, 2014

  • APAC.jpg In search of a cost-effective fuel for cooking in rural Africa

    Most, if not all, food in Guede Chantier, Senegal is cooked over a wood fire. This is typical of the situation in much of rural sub-Saharan Africa. The acquiring of firewood often is a task that is added to all of the other household and farming/marketing tasks that are carried out by women.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • EPA water proposal stirs ag controversy

    Proposed new language in the Clean Water Act has some farm groups charging the government is over-stepping its authority by expanding jurisdiction of “waters of the United States.”

    April 1, 2014

  • Ag may be biggest beneficiary of drones

    For centuries, farmers have braved the elements to walk their land to check for problems ranging from wind damage and calving cows to pests and predators.
    Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) may save farmers time and money with bird’s-eye views of farmland, says Bob Schultheis, a natural resource engineering specialist with University of Missouri Extension in Webster County.

    March 25, 2014

  • Implementation of 2014 Farm Bill allows farmers time to make an informed choice

    With the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill well into the 2014 crop year for winter wheat and the planning period for other row crops and with the significant changes Congress made to commodity policy—the elimination of Direct Payments, the need for farmers to choose between Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC), and the addition of the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) to the insurance program—the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was faced with a compressed time period in which to write all of the appropriate guidelines and regulations if farmers were to have to make their choices between PLC and ARC this spring.

    March 11, 2014

  • Farmland.jpg Fed survey suggests farmland ‘cooling’

    Farmland markets in the middle of the country may have begun to cool, according to a survey of bankers in the Federal Reserve’s Tenth District.
    The district includes Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, the northern half of New Mexico and the western third of Missouri.

    March 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • APAC-chart.jpg Price and the value of agricultural exports

    Exports are a big deal for agriculture, always have been and always will be. Of course, the mix of agricultural exports has changed over time.

    February 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Farm bill synopsis:

    February 11, 2014

  • Farm bill plows under direct payments

    Farm subsidies that have guided agriculture through record profits in recent years are going away in the five-year farm bill that could become law in the coming week. But new subsidies in the legislation could be just as generous, and farmers aren't complaining.

    February 4, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Seasonal Content