Consumer attitude and behavioral research indicates industry efforts in beef safety, convenience, nutrition and producer image are on the right track in developing better demand for the product.

Rich Otley, Cattlemen's Beef Board director of evaluation, says:

  • Consumer confidence in the safety of U.S. beef is growing. At the height of the foot-and-mouth disease scare in 2001, consumer confidence in the safety of U.S. beef stood at 87%. It's since risen to 89%.

  • A greater percentage of consumers (52% today vs. 44% in 1999) believe beef is an important part of a balanced diet.

  • Most people now think beef and chicken are nutritionally equal. Of those who don't, more people think beef is more nutritious than chicken.

  • Consumer awareness of heat-and-serve beef products jumped from 43% in October 1999 to 75% in July 2002.

  • Household spending on beef is increasing at a faster rate than chicken. From 1999-2001, beef was the only meat with an increase in household spending.

  • Consumer awareness of the “Beef. It's What's for Dinner” tagline rose from 73% to 82% from October 1999 to July 2002.

  • In August 2001, 71% of those surveyed said they were either very or somewhat favorable to ranchers, up from 56% in August 1998.

An entrepreneur in Thailand is out to make fried bugs a snack as popular in the Far East as french fries, popcorn or ice cream. The firm Insects International wants to make fried bugs — a popular source of protein in some impoverished parts of Thailand during periods of drought — an upscale treat.

Insects International already has 60 franchises selling fried crickets, grasshoppers, coconut worms, giant water beetles, scorpions and other bugs, all guaranteed pesticide-free. The plan is to grow that number to at least 200 outlets in Thailand by the end of next year. The bugs are sold out of kiosks in hypermarkets, outside convenience stores and on the street. In addition to the fresh fried bugs, the firm plans to also market its own line of canned bugs.

A total of almost $8,000 in prizes is at stake in the 2002 BEEF Quality Challenge. The deadline for entries is Nov. 15. A cooperative educational program between Texas A&M University and BEEF magazine, this fifth annual edition offers prizes in four age categories.

See the October issue of BEEF magazine or go online at for the contest explanation, rules and entry form. The contest results will be presented in the December issue of BEEF, with winners pictured in the January issue.

While total meat supplies have consistently set records the past three years, antibiotics use in livestock is down, says the Animal Health Institute (AHI). In a survey of its membership (companies that make medicines for pets and farm animals), AHI found that from a total of 24 million lbs. of antibiotics sold in 1999, the level dropped to 23.7 million lbs. in 2000, and again to 21.8 million lbs. in 2001.

“Veterinarians and livestock and poultry producers are constantly evaluating their use of antibiotics as part of the judicious use of these products,” says Alexander S. Mathews, AHI President and CEO.

Mathews attributes the trend to:

  • Judicious use of antibiotics and continuing improvements in production practices that reduce the need for antibiotics.

  • Continued improvements in production and preventive care practices.

  • Ongoing efforts of various public health and consumer advocacy groups to raise awareness of the issue.

When's the best time to implement a drought strategy? It's one of the biggest challenges of cow-calf producers on range. Many wait until the drought is well underway, thinking rain will alleviate the drought-related problems.

But Rod Heitschmidt and Keith Klement of the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City, MT, say the forage situation as of July 1 is a good indicator. From analyses of 10 years of data, the duo found that, on average, about 90% of rangeland forage is grown by July 1. This knowledge, the researchers say, should permit ranchers to adjust their stocking rates long before their herds deplete the entire forage base.

In a move that could hasten consumer acceptance of irradiated foods, FDA will consider petitions by food companies to use alternatives to the word “irradiation” on packages of food treated with the bacteria-killing technology. Currently, irradiated foods' packaging must bear the words “treated with irradiation” or “treated by radiation” and carry the radura symbol.

Under the 2002 farm bill, which urged relaxation of the labeling rules, companies now will be able to seek approval for the use of such words as “cold pasteurization,” FDA says. New FDA guidelines released in October require petitioning firms to provide consumer research that shows shoppers will understand the proposed wording. The FDA then has six months to accept or deny the application.

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal. Contact him at 952/851-4669 or e-mail