PIERRE - South Dakota beef checkoff dollars stretched to reach food-choice influencers on both the East and West coasts in May. Striving to get the most bang for the buck, the South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC) invested in programs expected to help drive consumer demand for beef.
SDBIC helped fund 'Beef. It's What's on the Menu,' a national beef checkoff event for influential executive chefs at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, CA. The chefs, many who make entree decisions for multiple restaurants, were introduced to value cuts that can help keep beef on the menu despite rising beef prices. Additional dollars were directed to a cooperative venture with the New York Beef Industry Council. The New York Beef Farm Tours provided an opportunity for food influencers, including the media, purveyors and school food planners, to visit beef farms in New York State where they learned facts about beef production and interacted directly with beef producers.
South Dakota beef producers were on hand at both events to bring the voice and face of Midwest beef producers to the urban participants. "There's real value in sending a producer who lives and breathes the livestock business to these events," said Karla Pazour, a Pukwana, SD rancher who attended one of two three-day sessions at Greystone, considered one of the country's prestigious culinary schools.
Pazour, an SDBIC and Federation of State Beef Councils director, said chefs participated in a Q&A session on beef production, supply and market trends, as well as a presentation on the sustainability of the beef industry. Workshops also included a display and discussion of selected beef cuts from the chuck and round portions of the carcass, along with a hands-on session called "Stretching Your Steak Dollar."
Value cuts highlighted during the event included the Denver steak, cut from the underblade of the chuck. "The Denver is cut from the fourth most tender muscle," Pazour explained. "These executive chefs are the ones making decisions as to what is featured on their menus. Convincing them that these value cuts could supplement more moderate-priced beef items not only provides a great option for their businesses, but adds value to the cuts and a greater opportunity for producer profit."
During the New York event, Ed and Wanda Blair provided the western beef producer perspective to a wide range of food influencers on tours of four different beef farms in rural New York. Participants included the host of a national food show on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the person responsible for 800,000 meals served daily in New York City's public schools. The Blairs, partners in Blair Brothers Angus of Vale, SD, participated in producer panels, taking questions on everything from hormone use in cattle to the difference between corn and grass-fed beef. "I represented the more traditional beef producer and could explain the efficiencies of our production practices," explained Ed Blair, who also serves as SDBIC president.
Both the Blairs and Pazour said the personal contact between food influencer and beef producer at each of the checkoff-funded events was an important component. Pazour, who took photos to share of her family's farm and ranch, said the executive chefs were interested in all aspects of the beef industry and especially her family's ranch. "They wanted to know about cattle feed, care and the family that produces their beef product. They were surprised to find out that 97 percent of cattle farms and ranches are family owned and operated," said Pazour.
Blair agreed, saying participants wanted to know more about his ranch where he, a son, brother and nephew care for cattle on the 1,000-head cowherd. "I believe everyone there had a positive experience and a better story to tell about the beef industry when they left," said Blair.
SDBIC directed $10,000 from its 50-cent share of the $1 checkoff to each of the projects, helping fund the two events through a cooperative effort either with other state beef councils or the national checkoff.
- South Dakota Beef Industry Council