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Agricultural News

Oklahoma Beef Council's Heather Buckmaster Looks East to Help Market Oklahoma Beef

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 19:35:23 CST

Oklahoma Beef Council's Heather Buckmaster Looks East to Help Market Oklahoma Beef
With the beginning of its new fiscal year on October 1st, among other things, the Oklahoma Beef Council began allocating more funds to international marketing efforts. Heather Buckmaster, the council's executive director, spoke recently with Oklahoma Farm Report’s Ron Hays about that decision and other promotional and marketing efforts that will be carried into the new year. (You can hear their conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story. Buckmaster will also appear on "In the Field" on News 9 at about 6:40 a.m. Saturday.)

“We made the decision for a couple of reasons: One, the declining buying power of the Beef Checkoff. Today, the Beef Checkoff has about 50 percent of the buying power it did in 1987. So we were looking for ways to really leverage and stretch those dollars as effectively and efficiently as we possibly could. And then, second, we recognized that 96 percent of the world’s population lives outside the United States so there’s great opportunity. And then, third, honestly, the export market was adding significant value to the bottom line of our farmers and ranchers. As an example, about $200 a head to the price of fed cattle. So we felt like there was outstanding opportunity in the export market for Oklahoma Beef Checkoff dollars.”

Buckmaster says with such a premium on the line, board members of the Oklahoma Beef Council began looking east.

“First of all, we’ve invested in Japan. In a retail promotion, the U.S. Meat Export Federation was able to leverage our dollars with a Japanese retailer that has 174 outlets. And when we talk about leverage, for every dollar we invested they invested five dollars.

“It was a month-long promotion that included everything from sampling to the normal media, but it resulted in a 14 percent increase in U.S. beef sales for that month-long promotion. Which, in 174 stores, is a significant growth rate.

“Another place that we’re looking at that we invested in this past year-it sounds a little unusual-but it was with in-store sampling and demos with the United Arab Emirates with a retailer. And the Middle East is really becoming a growing destination for U.S. beef. They like a lot of the beef cuts that we don’t eat as much. They love liver, for instance, in Egypt and we’re happy to send them lots of liver.

“But with the United Arab Emirates promotion, one of the things it did was raise awareness to other retailers the impact of U.S. beef could have on their retail sales if they brought it in.”

Buckmaster says the Japanese will adopt a 30-month rule at some point in the future which will allow 95 percent of U.S. beef to qualify for import into Japan, up from the current rule under which only 15 percent qualifies. She says this will make the supply much more reliable for Japanese retailers who find U.S. beef a high value item that is more affordable than their locally produced product.

Buckmaster says the Oklahoma Beef Council is so confident the Japanese market will be such an important market for Oklahoma cattle that her organization has pledged more money to a marketing campaign when the 30-month rule is finally adopted.

Domestically, Buckmaster says, the Oklahoma Beef Council is making greater use of the internet to reach potential customers.

“We have one website that was new in fiscal year 2012. It’s located at factsaboutbeef.com. It’s a website aimed at being an online hub of information regarding the latest in beef industry issues.

“So, for instance, if they see a story on the New York Times that has been picked up potentially by network television, that there would be a place where we could send consumers to to find out more information and really see the entire picture of what the story is. It also addresses common myths about beef and beef production. Because it seems like every time I turn around there’s some little myth that’s just kind of slipped into the public consciousness. So we’re really working to address those myths and, hopefully, at least give people another place where they can go and look for further information. One of the things that’s great about the website is you can sign up for alerts on the website so anytime content is updated you’ll be the first to know.”

Buckmaster says the Lean Finely-Textured Beef debacle earlier this year pointed out the need for consumers to have an outlet for accurate information in regard to fast-developing stories.

On a more down home level, Buckmaster says, marketing efforts are being directed toward helping consumers consider creating new holiday meal traditions that go beyond serving the same old standbys of turkey and ham.

“We hope everybody serves beef for the Christmas meal. And we have a great website through the Beef Checkoff. It’s beefitswhatsfordinner.com. It’s an absolutely wonderful website. It has cooking tips, great holiday roast recipes at, really, all price points. And, for those who are a little more cooking challenged, there are wonderful online how-to videos. So, if you want to know how to cook a tenderloin, they’ll show you how to cook a tenderloin. So there’s some great information there.”



Heather Buckmaster talks about marketing Oklahoma beef in the Far East.
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