In this episode, we speak with Bridget Elliot Coon, a fifth generation cattle rancher and beef marketer. Bridget and I discuss everything from land use to labels to direct to consumer sales.
Understanding Land Use
The conversation on how land is used is a topic many people don’t understand. Geography, climate, and soil/ground type vary widely county by county, state by state. Today, 30% of the land in the U.S. isn’t farmable or suitable for growing food, but it can be grazed by cattle. Educating people on how cattle can help increase biodiversity, contribute to natural habitats and not impede on recreational use or conservation efforts is something associations are trying to do.
What Consumer May Not Know About Raising Meat
Bridget is working hard alongside the producers and associations she works with to help dispel myths and supply chain oversimplifications she sees happening on a regular basis when it comes to the meat people buy. The food system is complex. The consumer beliefs around value and livestock raising practices are hard for many people to understand depending on where they find information.
From how animals are fed to how meat is labeled in stores, makes education hard for many producers. For example, grass-fed vs. grass and grain-fed. How cattle are fed depends on climate, not all ranchers have a 12-month grass growth cycle. The idea of “grass-fed only” has many nuances. So consumers thinking that grass fed and finished beef is better is misleading.
Meat Flavor Profiles
When it comes to what animals eat, the grass-fed vs. grass and grain-fed conversation takes an interesting turn. Grass-fed only, and grass and grain-fed meat do taste different. The flavor and texture are different. But one isn’t better than the other.
It’s all a matter of personal taste and preference. The finishing stage is what consumers need to better educate themselves on. Also, the way cuts and types are cooked has a lot of influence on how it tastes too. Understanding marbling and intramuscular fat is something people want to know about in order to truly explore beef and cuts.
Challenges in Marketing Beef
The biggest challenge in marketing beef is related to the rise in direct-to-consumer sales. COVID’s processing bottleneck and ideas of running out of meat made meeting the demand for meat very challenging. DTC explored, and with the demand, came a new set of challenges for producers who sell animals.
One of the most interesting discoveries Bridge made was that consumers don’t know how to cut more than two cuts – ground beef and steak. Buying a quarter, half or whole animal made cut knowledge and educating consumers on how to cook the cuts a top priority. Across the board, she found that producers must do a better job of educating their customers, but also, the customers need to educate themselves.
When it came to DTC and buying beef online, she found that helping people understand how much beef they were getting in a shipment required education. She had to show them how much space their meat order required. Selling online presented a big learning curve for many producers offering it. But once they got a handle on educating consumers on weight, product type, cooking, and visual appeal, they saw online sales skyrocket. And now they’re translating their findings back into the store environment.
To learn more on how to successfully understand marketing beef, listen to the full episode.
- :57 – Meet Bridget
- 3:16 – Building Ag Policies in Washington
- 4:16 – Raising Meat and Seattle’s Expansion
- 6:30 – Land Use: Farming vs. Livestock
- 9:33 – What You May Not Know About Raising Beef
- 13:45 – Meat Flavor Profiles
- 18:37 – Marketing Meat and COVID’s DTC Demand
- 23:15 – Better Educating Consumers
- 28:40 – The Evolution of DTC Beef
To learn more about the latest trends in meat, dairy, fresh, and grocery products, register to attend the SIAL America show in Las Vegas.