Research paying off for County Beef

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 9, 2000

A larger selection of fresh and convenient beef products may soon start filling supermarket meat cases thanks to Butler County beef producers.

Through a beef check-off program, investments in research will be obtained through a $1-per-head contribution. The funds have gone toward various

marketing techniques such as the production of beef that will take only minutes to cook as well as producing more low-fat, tender cuts of beef.

Butler County Extension Officer Russty Parrish said that the program was set up to acquire funds to help beef producers compete with other products.

"They take $1 per head and put it toward marketing research," Parrish said. "The primary goal of the program is to help market the beef and to help beef compete with other meats such as poultry and pork. They are researching as many marketing avenues as they can through this program."

The program began about three years ago when members of the Cattlemen's Association voted to give one dollar for every head sold to

research that will help find new ways of promoting beef.

Butler County Cattlemen's Association President Jerry Middleton said the project has been a success and is one of the reason for high cattle prices at this time.

"The demand for beef products has increased dramatically which is good for all beef producers," Middleton said.

Researchers from the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida began by examining 39 muscles from the chuck and round of beef. A total of 5,600 samples were measured by length, weight, fat content, tenderness, best cooking method and other valuable processing properties.

The research is very unique to the Alabama beef industry.

"These results will create the first database of its kind," says Wendell Gibbs, President of the Alabama Cattlemen's Association. "The beef industry is using this new technology and new information to make beef more consumer-friendly and a better fit for today's demanding lifestyles."

One of the objectives of the study was to provide ideas for creating innovative, easy meals from each of the 39 cuts.

"At 4:30 p.m., 70 percent of Americans don't know what they are having for dinner that night," notes Debbie Vandiver, Consumer Information Director of the Alabama Cattlemen's Association. "And this research can help. Knowing the best cooking method for a particular cut, for example, can take the guess work out of preparing beef, making mealtime more enjoyable."

Middleton said that these new products are changing and making it more competitive with other meat products.

"Through this program we are seeing innovations of new products on the market. We are attempting to make products that better fit today's consumers such as the new roast which can be cooked in about ten minutes that has been on the market for about a year and a half. That one product has helped drive the demand for beef up and has helped us remain competitive with other meat products on the market," Middleton said.

In addition, many cuts, because of their tenderness or moisture content, were seen as ideal candidates for new convenient beef meals that are ready in minutes, much like the heat-and-serve pot roasts and meatloaves that are currently on the market.

Researchers also found that certain components in the chuck and round-many more than previously thought- are lower in fat, as well. The study discovered that one third of the samples in the chuck and round contain less than 5 percent fat.

"We have a lot of opportunity to provide more convenient, flavorful and lower fat beef products to consumers," adds Gibbs. "This research will help make beef more valuable to those who manufacture meat items, which in turn will increase value to the consumer. This will improve demand and market share for beef."

Middleton said that participating in the program has been very advantageous for Butler County's beef producers.

"This has been a very good investment. It has opened up new markets for beef that we have not been able to sell in before and we hope to begin exporting to China in the coming years.

"We have been able to educate the public by conducting many studies on the cholesterol content of beef which is not as high as was once indicated," he said. "There have been many benefits for cattlemen and the consumers as a result of the check-off program."