A checkoff-funded study measuring consumer perceptions about irradiated ground beef reveals a sizeable potential market for the product.

The study identified four consumer segments in regard to irradiated ground beef product. These include strong buyers (27%), interested 34%), doubters (24%) and rejecters (15%).

The first three are potential markets for irradiated ground beef, researchers say. By implementing consumer education programs and continuing product quality research, this market should continue to grow.

Nearly all the “strong buyers” were ready to buy irradiated ground beef before the study, more likely to buy it after trying it and willing to pay 10¢/lb. more for it. The “rejecter” segment, however, even snubbed placebo ground beef patties — non-irradiated burgers that were labeled as irradiated in the study — as often as the irradiated patties. The study said no amount of information would convince this group, which generally rejects any new product.

The study found that a person's acceptance of irradiated beef was greatly influenced by their initial perceptions. More consumer education on the benefits and safety of irradiation is needed, the researchers said.

“There is a market for this if it's supplied as a choice in supermarkets, and there's even a broader market for it in foodservice,” says John Lundeen, managing director/partner at the Sterling Rice Group, which conducted the independent study along with Talmey-Drake Research and Strategy Inc.

“There is a good core who want to buy it and another group who are on the fence,” Lundeen says. “The upsides outweigh that minority that is not comfortable with this.”

An early 1990s study at Purdue University found that more than 90% of consumers were willing to buy foods processed with irradiation once they understood the process.

John Crouch is named executive vice president of the American Angus Association (AAA). Affiliated with AAA since 1974 and director of performance programs since 1981, Crouch is a Jonesborough, TN, native and had served as interim executive vice president of the world's largest beef breed organization since the death of Dick Spader last fall.

PM Beef Group is expanding its Windom, MN, plant. Scheduled for completion in fall 2002, the $17-million, multi-phase investment will consolidate the firm's harvest and fabrication operations. PM Beef Group currently houses its harvesting and fabrication functions in two separate plants, Windom and Hartley, IA, respectively.

In 2001, the Windom plant purchased more than 155,000 market cattle. The expansion will push that figure to 212,000 head. PM BeefGroup's product lines include PM Beef Group's USDA Process Verified Ranch to Retail brand beef, Amana Beef, BSI-USA, Shenson, TastySlim and private-label kosher lines.

For background information on PM Beef Group, see December 1999 BEEF, “Quality & Profit,” page 6) or check out the online archives at www.beef-mag.com.

Nine Santa Gertrudis breeders are joining forces to go to retail. Called the Santa Gertrudis Beef Producers, A Red Meat Alliance, the program will offer customers the opportunity to market their Santa Gertrudis-sired calves for target-based incentives, as well as gain performance feedback information. The multi-sector program includes AzTX Feeders, a leading packer and meat retailer.

The Texas seedstock members include Briggs Ranches, Victoria, 361/897-1337; Corporron Acres, Schulenburg, 979/562-2405; Five Oaks Ranch, Valley Mills, 254/932-6182; Four J Cattle, Halletsville, 979/562-2126; Harris Riverbend Farms, Cleburne, 817/641-4159; Pecan Hill Farm, Bellville, 979/865-9590; Olivarez Ranches, Mission, 956/585-1661; and Wendt Ranches, Bay City, 979/245-5100; and Red Doc Farm, Belen, NM, 505/864-7781.

Terrorism is a-ok with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Last year, the group gave money to the Earth Liberation Front, a violent group the FBI labels as “the largest and most active U.S-based terrorist group.”

In addition, PETA, which has been criticized in the past for the paltry support it gives to animal protection facilities, also donated more than $75,000 to environmental and animal rights activists convicted of arson, police assault and other crimes. For more on PETA and other such groups, visit www.activistcash.com.

Got hoppers? USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has information to help control them, and it's free. A collaborative effort of ARS, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the University of Wyoming has produced a CD-ROM and Web site with comprehensive coverage of the latest research in management, identification, biology, ecology and control. Decision-making software is also part of the package. Go to www.sidney.ars.usda.gov/grasshopper/index.htm or get a free CD-ROM by contacting the Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory at 1500 North Central Ave., Sidney, MT 59270, calling 406/433-5038, faxing 406/433-2020 or e-mailing hoppercd@sidney.ars.usda.gov.

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal, 952/851-4669 or e-mail jroybal@primediabusiness.com.