For those selling their beef as a commodity product, Troy Marshall says it's because they choose to, not because it's necessary. As quality differences drive price spreads, early adaptors of source-, age- and process-verified cattle are reaping the rewards, Marshall maintains in “The industry isn't changing. It has changed!” on page 12.

Consumer trends are constantly changing — from low-fat to low-carb, and beef trends are changing, too. Kindra Gordon explores the trends in beef's retail future in “Trends To Track” on page 24, including natural and organic brands, detailed meat labels, providing the “story” behind the brand, and promoting beef's health qualities.

“We've placed a high value on providing tender beef, and the confidence of knowing it's tender is worth the cost of doing it,” Safeway rep Jim Sheeran tells Wes Ishmael. How does Safeway arrive at that guarantee for its Rancher's Reserve beef product? In “Love Me Tender” on page 27, Ishmael explores a technology called sliced shear force that more accurately predicts tenderness.

The Hispanic population makes up more than 15% of the U.S. population, and the average Hispanic consumer spends almost $100 more on beef/year than the general population. Associate editor Stephanie Veldman visits with two state beef councils about marketing to this unique demographic in “Changing Faces,” page 35.

“Creating More Value” through the development of more than 600 new beef products, the beef checkoff has added more than $75 to each animal sold since 1998. New uses for the chuck is credited for much of the value increase. Walt Barnhart details what's been achieved and what lies in the future for maximizing the value of beef. Page 40.

In early March, the largest wildfire in Texas history swept the state, claiming 12 lives, leaving more than 3,000 cattle dead, and burning more than 700,000 acres. Amarillo-based Larry Stalcup examines the fire's aftermath and lays out a recovery plan in “After The Firestorm” on page 50.