Deep in the Heart of Texas
DENVER - If two heads are better than one, then the Texas Beef Council (TBC) houses nine times that amount of brain power.
Representing the nation’s largest cattle producing state, it’s not surprising the beef council has 18 employees, with onstaff expertise in many areas, from Beef Quality Assurance and domestic marketing to producer communications and nutrition. And, unlike most beef councils, TBC operates in a state with large checkoff collections and a population of more than 25 million people.
TBC has robust state programs, yet its board has always voluntarily committed additional checkoff dollars through the Federation to support additional national and international marketing efforts. This voluntary support has historically been a 60/40 split between domestic and international expenditures, according to Richard Wortham, TBC executive director.
“We understand the need for demand-building efforts beyond our borders,” Wortham explained. “Even though we’re a high population state, we want to insure that plenty of beef is sold everywhere there’s a high consumer population.”
To insure effective, targeted programs, the TBC includes its entire expert staff in work planning sessions. Decisions are based on how well potential programs align with the national long range plan: to increase consumer preference for beef; to strengthen beef ’s image; and to capitalize on global market growth.
“We look at strategies as a group,” Wortham said. “We look at how to make programs richer by including as many touch points as we can, be it retail, foodservice, producer communications or influencers. We believe this creates better results for the cattle producers who pay the checkoff.”
Linda Bebee, a native Texan who has been at TBC for more than 20 years, is vice president of domestic marketing. Over the years, she’s witnessed the value of the state-national partnership in carrying out core market strategies. She cited an example of how a prime marketing message evolved in large part through state-national collaborative input.
“Several years ago we realized that inaccurate consumer perceptions about beef nutrition were a huge barrier to selling our product,” Bebee explained. “We worked with the national checkoff to bring nutrition professionals on board. We helped make the case for a single campaign combining beef desirability and nutrition messages. That’s one of our biggest positives today. We have 29 lean cuts. We have the science to document beef nutrition, as well as the market research showing consumers respond positively to that news.”
These strong messages answer the long range plan’s call and work double-time from the grassroots up to entice consumers to make beef their preferred protein, Bebee noted.
Wortham added that the state-national partnership will be even more important in the coming years. Like other beef councils, TBC is feeling the financial effect of declining cattle numbers. Texas has also faced a huge drop in cattle numbers due to catastrophic drought, which continues in some parts of the state.
“Over the past 20 years, our checkoff has averaged around $12 million a year. Our 2013 projection is around $9.6 million. There’s less money everywhere so the challenge will be how to invest producer dollars to get the biggest bang. We’ll need interdependent strategies that work at the national and state levels. We’ll need to really sharpen our focus on our target audiences.”
TBC at a Glance
- Year Established: 1986
- Number of cattle ranchers in the state: 135,000
- Board Structure: 20 members, nominated by eligible cattle organizations/industry segments listed below.
- Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers (3)
- Texas Cattle Feeders Association (3)
- Texas Farm Bureau (3)
- Independent Cattlemen’s Association (2)
- Texas purebred cattle associations, as a group (2)
- Texas dairy associations, as a group (2)
- Texas livestock markets, as a group (1)
- Meat packer/exporter associations, as a group (1)
- Texas CattleWomen (1)
- At Large (2)
The TBC board approves all directors, and at-large directors, who are appointed by the chair: Current Federation Directors: Ken Leiber, Coleman Locke, Susie O’Brien, Jason Peeler, Jerry Spencer, Linda Joy Stovall, Don Smith, Roger Clift (revenue seat). Don Smith is the immediate past Region IV Vice President BPOC: Linda Joy Stovall is one of 10 Federation representatives on the Beef Promotion Operating Committee