It’s November and, for many state beef councils around the country, it’s beginning to look a lot like -- holiday roast time.

For beef councils, and their retail partners, “holiday roast” is not a generic term – it signals the annual launch of the holiday beef roast brochure promotion, a checkoff-funded effort that has helped distribute more than 3 million brochures to consumers since the promotion began 15 years ago.

Proactive state-retail promotions like this are one of the ways state beef councils invest their 50 cent portion of the $1 beef checkoff, after collecting that $1 and forwarding 50 cents to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board for national checkoff programs.

Greg Robey, a producer from Harrodsburg, Ky., and chairman of the Kentucky Beef Council, likes the visibility these brochures and other checkoff-funded Point of Sale (POS) materials deliver at the meat case.

“The materials are highly beneficial. If we can’t be there personally to educate the shopper, this may be our only opportunity to tell our story and bring attention to our beef products,” he said.

This year the roast brochure, which features premium and economical cuts, may convince budget-conscious consumers that a holiday beef roast is a good value, according to Jim Henger, who heads the checkoff’s national retail programs.

“Wholesale prices for middle meat cuts are much lower now, when compared to 52 weeks ago,” he said. “For the retailer, it’s an opportunity to feature middle meats during the holidays. Even with current economic conditions, that should give some consumers more beef roast-buying options and the incentive to continue serving it as the traditional holiday meal. The brochure’s recipes and photos stir the senses, which further encourages consumers,” Henger added.

It may be the holidays but when it comes to promoting beef, the checkoff never takes a day off, said Rob Noel, promotions director for the Washington State Beef Commission, which originated the beef roast brochure promotion. States and their retail partners believe if consumers have a memorable holiday beef meal, they’ll be more likely to continue buying beef year-round, he added.

This year, 25 participating beef councils will place 350,000 brochures in display racks at meat cases across the country. The colorful piece offers roast recipes for every budget, as well as tips to prepare and carve like a pro. Retailers love it, too, because it’s a valuable tool for their meat departments during the key holiday sales period.

“A lot of retailers now ask us ahead of time when the new brochure is coming out, and some are increasing their orders, because they found they were running out too early in the season,” said
Amy Halvorson, RD, LD, director of nutrition and consumer information for the Minnesota Beef Council. Minnesota will deliver 25,000 brochures to retailers this season.

This informative brochure is displayed right at the meat case, just when consumers are looking for festive inspiration and new ideas to enhance the season’s celebratory meals. They also want to purchase a fabulous, no-fail protein.

“Some consumers are hesitant about preparing a roast, especially a premium cut. At this time of year, they want to be sure it comes out perfect for family and social functions,” added Emilie Miller, director of retail and foodservice relations for the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative (NEBPI). “The brochure is just what they need to increase their beef cooking skills and confidence.”

The NEBPI invests checkoff dollars by promoting beef in heavily populated urban areas along the East Coast and will distribute 25,000 brochures to selected retailers this holiday.

It’s not only the recipes but easy cooking directions that make the brochure so appealing, Washington State’s Noel added. In today’s hectic world, consumers are actually losing cooking skills. For example, he’s heard more than one cook experience an “Ah Ha!” moment upon learning that a beef roast continues to cook after it’s taken out of the oven. Standing time will effect whether the roast is rare, well or over-done. That one simple step could mean the difference between an astounding eating experience and a very disappointing one, Noel added.

Finally, the brochures help beef councils demonstrate their willingness to assist retailers in informing and satisfying consumer beef-buying needs throughout the year.

Mary Neese, with the Wyoming Beef Council, says the annual brochure promotion helps her stay in touch.

“In our state, distances between towns can be daunting, so the promotion is a good way for us to stay in touch with retailers,” she said. “Our chains and independent grocers welcome beef information and POS materials. In fact, we just surveyed them and every one asked us to continue both the holiday roast and summer grilling POS items.”

Alison Smith, director of consumer affairs for the Kentucky Beef Council, agreed: “We’ve been using POS materials for years and retailers just love them. We’re sending 20,000 pieces out this year.”

“Retailers appreciate the fact that the brochures and POS materials bring more beef sales opportunities to their attention and that in the end, their sales benefit from it,” added NEBPI’s Miller.

In addition to working with retailers, state beef councils usually find themselves on the culinary front lines with consumers at some time during the holiday season. Rob Noel remembered a frantic call he received one year:

“I had a call a day or two before the holiday from a desperate non-cook. She’d spent a lot of money on a premium roast and had no idea how to cook it,” Noel explained. “She was a new bride and was having the family to dinner for the first time. I calmed her down and gave her some easy, no-fail beef roasting information. She later sent us a nice thank-you note for helping her serve a beautiful dinner instead of a disaster.”