Four major beef industry groups have agreed to work together on a long-range plan to redirect and fine-tune beef marketing, production and merchandising programs.
The move is an effort to regain sales lost to other protein items.
"Before, we had four different plans and no common focus," said Earl Peterson, vice president of finance and administration for the National Cattlemen's Association, who is leading the committee working on the project.
The groups are the Cattleman's Beef Board, the U.S. Meat Export Federation, NCA and, most recently, the Beef Industry Council of the National Livestock and Meat Board.
"The driving force is that the beef industry is losing market share to poultry and pork people," said Peterson. "And if we want to maintain viability, we have to work together."
In 1980, of all consumer dollars spent on beef, pork and poultry, 60% were spent on beef and 40% on pork and poultry combined. By 1990 that had shifted to 50% for beef and 50% for pork and poultry combined, according to Peterson.
"By 2000, if that trend continues," said Peterson, "pork and poultry will have 60% and beef will have 40%."
That means the beef industry must shift its focus, said Peterson.
"We have to change the emphasis of the industry from being production-oriented to being consumer-oriented and market-driven."
Peterson noted that beef production is up, but if demand doesn't keep pace, prices could suffer. "While the industry has been profitable, we are expecting that could change." And while the first step in the process is an agreement of the various industry segments to work together, discussions of a consolidation of the four groups continue, said Peterson.
The eight areas of concentration that will be approached in the long-range planning process are: domestic marketing, international marketing, quality and consistency, public relations, issues management, production efficiency, strategic alliances and producer-packer alliances.
The oversight committee for the project, which includes three elected officers and the chief executive officer from each of the four member organizations, will begin appointing teams to focus on each of the eight issue areas.