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Agricultural News

Beef Board CEO Focuses on Millennials, Moving Forward with Checkoff Contractors

Wed, 14 Aug 2013 18:49:15 CDT

Beef Board CEO Focuses on Millennials, Moving Forward with Checkoff Contractors
With the change in the fiscal year, Polly Ruhland, chief executive officer of the Cattlemen's Beef Board, has been looking back and looking forward. She has been examining what has worked over the past year and ways to make those efforts more productive in the future. She spoke at length recently with Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays at the Cattle Industry Summer Convention in Denver. (You can hear the full interview by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story.)

She said there are a number of tools at the beef board's disposal to evaluate plans brought by contractors for the coming year.   They include an industry scan and an overview of trends seen in the spring. One of the most helpful tools is the Beef Demand Determinant Study. Armed with as much information as they can get, she said the board tries to decide which programs should be continued and which new ones should be launched.

In looking at last year, Ruhl said there are several success to be proud of and expanded into the coming year. She said one of the biggest successes was last year's advertising campaign which is carrying over into a new campaign this year.

"Producers have probably not had a lot of chance to see that campaign yet, it's just rolling out now and I'm very excited about it because it takes a new target in older Millennials with children. We know the Millennial Generation is going to be extremely important and this campaign is targeted directly at those folks who are making family meal decisions."

She said Millennials range in age from those adults in their upper teens to those in their early thirties. She said the Millennials are so important because they are the largest generation ever with lots of buying power that will grow in the coming years.

It's a tough audience to keep up with, Ruhland said. "The advertising and promotion environment has changed a lot since the Beef Checkoff was started. Television advertising is no longer as important to promotion as it was. And growing in importance is, of course, the social environment, the web environment. Our ability to do these videos is not like going back to TV. It's like going forward into a new environment to a new target audience, the Millennials who rarely get information or entertainment from the television. They get it primarily online."

She said the beef board works with contractors to keep up with that ever-changing-and important-audience.

"So, our investment in the Millennial Generation, particularly those with children, sells beef today, but also sells beef well into the future so it's an investment in the future."

Ruhland said another program that has proven to be very effective for beef producers is the focus on value cuts.

"The beef value cuts are something I always mention because beef value cuts starting with the muscle-profiling research years ago and continuing to roll out new value cuts always adds value to the carcass which returns dollars to producers' pockets."

One of the other issues that Ruhland had to deal with when she was named CEO was the issue of the relationship between the beef board and its Checkoff contractors. There were those who charged that the process wasn't transparent enough and was fraught with the possibility of misuse.

"I would say that we've made some significant changes in the way we review our contractors. And our contractors themselves have made some changes in the way that they mind the store. I won't say that we were doing a poor job before, but I will say we're doing a better job now than we ever have been. I think that if you don't believe me because I am the hired hand at the CBB then you can believe the various audits and reviews that we've had."

She said the audit from the Office of the Inspector General came out earlier this year with no exceptions and a couple of recommendations which have been pursued and developed. She said there were two other audits conducted whose results will be released soon, and she expects those will both be clean as well.


Ron Hays talks about Checkoff successes with Polly Ruhland of the CBB.
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