The vast majority of U.S. beef producers (around 70%), who annual surveys indicate year in and year out are in support of the national beef checkoff breathed a sigh of relief on July 10. That's when the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the program can continue while the court considers the June 21 ruling by a U.S. District Court judge that the checkoff violates producers' rights to free speech and association. In that ruling, Judge Charles Kornmann also had ordered beef checkoff collections to stop by July 15.

With the appellate court ruling, the beef promotion and research program remains in effect and beef producers and importers must continue to pay beef checkoff assessments. Failing to pay the assessment may be subject to late payment charges and civil penalties of up to $5,500/violation.

Wythe Willey, a Cedar Rapids, IA, cattleman and president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), praised the decision by the 8th Circuit Court. He called the ruling “a significant victory for the majority of beef producers who have continued to support the industry's dynamic self-help program.”

The motion to stop the injunction was filed by the U.S. Justice Department on behalf of USDA on July 8. The 8th Circuit court granted the motion in less than 48 hours.

Dairy Queen® expands its sales test of irradiated ground beef. The Minneapolis, MN-based, quick-service restaurant chain announced that 30 locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area were added to its test marketing effort July 19.

Dairy Queen is the first national chain to publicly offer electronically irradiated beef. The test began last February in two central Minnesota locations. In May, the company expanded its test to 11 additional restaurants.

Glenn Lindsey, Dairy Queen vice president of research and development, says education is the key to consumer acceptance. He says the expansion was limited to 30 locations because of the logistics of training location staff about the benefits and safety of the process. More locations will be added as training time allows.

In addition to training staff to answer consumer questions about product irradiated using the SureBeam® technology, Dairy Queen also used point-of-sale pieces, such as posters, tray liners and brochures. “We didn't hide it,” he says.

Lindsey says one big factor owing to Dairy Queen's successful tests thus far is the consumer education groundwork laid in Minnesota by a collaboration of the state's producers, public health agencies and industry.

U.S. imports feed Mexico. A total of 76.2% of the meat imported into Mexico comes from the U.S. Gustavo Torres Flores, president of Mexico's National Livestock Federation, says the U.S. Meat Export Federation's aggressive marketing has U.S. beef displacing homegrown product in many supermarkets and restaurants.

Grupo PM, a Mexican marketing firm, says the winning U.S. approach is to use branding, and each U.S. product carries its own label. Meanwhile, domestic Mexican beef continues to sell in bulk. Unless Mexico changes its merchandising methods, it will never be able to compete with U.S. products, Grupo PM says.

Overall, U.S. agricultural products cover up to 40% of Mexico's food needs, a fact attributed to the variety, convenience and price of the products.

Ground beef is king at home. In-home beef consumption (beef purchased at retail) has changed “big time” in the last decade. Cattle-Fax says ground beef accounts for 63% of all in-home beef “eatings.” In 1991, it was only 36%. Much of that growth has come at the expense of steak and roasts, which are down 7% and 11%, respectively. Cattle-Fax says the change has been driven largely by consumer desire for convenience and easy preparation. Incidentally, ground beef makes up 75% of all restaurant beef servings.

A group of Brahman hybrid producers have formed the National Brahman Hybrid Marketing Association. Plans are being finalized for the inaugural Preconditioned Brahman F-1 Steer Sale to be held in Crockett, TX, Oct. 26. The weaning deadline is Sept. 11. For more information, contact John Joyce at 979/657-4444 or 866/657-4440 or e-mail

Firms partner on USDA Process Verified products. The PM Beef Group and Premium Standard Farms are partnering to provide the first USDA Process Verified beef and pork program to Heinen's Fine Food's, Cleveland, OH, an upscale, family-owned and operated chain. The products were launched in late June in all Heinen's locations under the label, Heinen's Own. Extensive research conducted in 1997, Heinen's says, revealed its store brand was more trusted by its consumers than third-party labels.

Both PM Beef and Premium Standard Farms are pioneers in gaining USDA Process Verified status, an intensive quality program modeled after ISO 9000 and audited by the USDA.

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal, 952/851-4669 or e-mail