Wisconsin's Beef Checkoff program at work

Amber Burke
Wisconsin State Farmer

May is beef month and the Wisconsin Beef Council continues to support their mission of building beef demand that is sustainable for future generations.

The Beef Checkoff program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The Checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. Half of one dollar remains in Wisconsin for local beef promotion, while the other half is forwarded nationally to theCattlemen's Beef Board (CBB). Wisconsin currently has four representatives on the CBB representing both beef and dairy sectors.

"It is extremely important to educate consumers about how our cattle are raised, the nutrition of our product, and the industry’s positive impacts on the environment and the economy," according to Kaitlyn Riley, Director of communication and outreach for the Wisconsin Beef Council (WBC). "The WBC board members and staff carry out that mission in a variety of ways including, foreign marketing efforts, advertising and promotion, research, consumer education and more."

The Wisconsin Beef Council hosted a Farm to Fork Tour for the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in April. The stops featured a meat market, Holstein steer feedyard, cow-calf operation, and a dairy farm.

With a multi-year focus in Central America, Wisconsin’s Beef Checkoff investments helped educate buyers and promote a wide array of cuts while tapping into recent trends in the region, including growth in meat boutiques and interest in grilling. In addition, four WBC representatives attended the U.S. Meat Export Federation’s Latin American Product Showcase. Wisconsin participants met with importers from Central America, South America and the Caribbean to discuss beef production practices, highlighting the diversity of beef produced in Wisconsin.

Leaders of the Wisconsin Beef Council (WBC) board and staff attended the Latin American Product Showcase (LAPS) in San Jose, Costa Rica, which is hosted by the U.S. Meat Export Federation, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff. Valerie Gaffney, Barneveld; Rosie Lisowe, Chilton; Amy Radunz, Ellsworth; and Tammy Vaassen, Cuba City all participated in this two-day event that connects exporters of U.S. beef, pork and lamb with buyers from Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

To help tell the story of beef farming in the Badger state, WBC developed a branding video called “Wisconsin Way.” The goal of the video is to showcase Wisconsin beef farms that come in different types and sizes, but all have the same goal of caring for the land and animals, and producing high-quality, nutritious beef. The "Wisconsin Way" video can be viewed on many social media platforms and is utilized in a multi-faceted marketing effort.

The Wisconsin Beef Council promotional campaign continues to focus on maximizing the awareness of the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. brand. At the national level, resources are utilized on advertising, merchandising and new product development as well as training and promotional partnerships with dietitians, restaurants and supermarkets that stimulate sales of beef and veal products.

The organization also engages consumers through advertising, social media and educational events. Social media and the website offer an online resource for all things beef. According to Riley, "A strong majority of our website visitors are seeking beef recipes, including ground beef favorites, and 30-minutes or less meal ideas."

WBC staff promotes beef through virtual cooking classes and YouTube videos that help consumers make the most of beef purchases with proper storage, defrosting tips and delicious recipes. In addition, WBC works with the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center for the Burgers & Buns Fun Run to salute beef farmers and ranchers who provide families with wholesome, sustainable protein choices while helping the economy thrive.

Director of Marketing, Angie Horkan, hosts a virtual cooking class from the Wisconsin Beef Council office.

"Events like this give people the opportunity to ask questions and learn about how their beef is raised," says Riley. "We also collaborate with nutritionists and dietitians to explain the benefits of beef, and we continue to explore new ideas to improve these efforts through Beef in the Classroom and Beef University."

The Wisconsin Beef Council is a producer-directed not-for-profit organization funded by the $1.00 per head assessment on all cattle sold in the state of Wisconsin per the Federal Beef Promotion and Research Act & Order. The Checkoff assessment became mandatory when the program was approved by 79 percent of producers in a 1988 national referendum vote. The purpose of the Council is to fund beef promotion, research and consumer education activities supporting Wisconsin's $2.1 billion beef industry. The WBC operates under the guidance of its Board of Directors. The Board is comprised of representatives from cattle-related organizations around the state of Wisconsin.

The national Checkoff program was designed to stimulate restaurants and grocery stores to sell more beef and encourage consumers to buy more beef. The Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and USDA oversee the collection and spending of Checkoff funds as part of the ongoing planning and evaluation effort at the CBB, all programs are evaluated – to see that they are accomplishing their stated objectives, as well as achieving the outcomes and goals of the beef industry’s long-range plan.