There's a cartoon I keep on my office bulletin board of a disappointed bird ordering breakfast in a restaurant. The impatient waitress taking his food order, says: "Sorry, but we're all out of worms. They went early."

The caricature illustrates the age-old maxim that the greatest rewards of a concept, technology or mindset generally flow to the early adopters. Certainly those who sign on later can avoid the mistakes of the trailblazers, but those who delay too long are forced to play catch-up, with sometimes disastrous consequences.

Value-based marketing of cattle isn't new. It's been conducted in various forms for decades, but the listing of almost 40 programs detailed in this issue ("2006 Alliance Yellow Pages") attests to its strong and growing presence. In fact, Cattle-Fax reports that more than 50% of cattle marketed today do so via some sort of value-based scheme, be they formulas, contracts or alliances.

The days of commodity marketing are sliding into history. Experts say there will always be a commodity market but those participating in it will find increasingly shrinking opportunity as the world moves more and more into coordinated systems designed to produce and reward value.

Delivering a roadmap into that world is the idea behind the BEEF Quality Summit, a two-day seminar BEEF magazine will present Nov. 14-15 in Oklahoma City, OK. The aim is to provide attendees with the background, the tools and the environment to make the connections for involvement, and the potential rewards offered, in the new beef value chain.

Set for Oklahoma City's Clarion Hotel, the meeting is designed for cow-calf operators, feedlot operators and anyone else who needs to know about beef marketing channels. The first day's program is devoted to outlining the opportunity available in the new beef-value chain. The second day is devoted to how to link your production into that chain.

The speaker list includes top names in retail, industry and government experts. For more detail on speakers, topics, accommodations and registration, visit www.beef-mag.com and click on the "BEEF Quality Summit" box in the top right corner of the opening page.

Each month, via its various printed and electronic publications, the BEEF editorial staff strives to deliver information serious beef producers need to compete and prosper in today's rapidly evolving beef business. This two-day event is our first foray into meeting this charge in an intensive, face-to-face venue. The focus is timely, the program is dynamite, and we're confident attendees will find much to ponder, take home and implement. I hope to see you in OKC.
-- Joe Roybal