Beef Producers Go Lean

The nation’s beef producers want consumers to think “lean protein,” as they launch a major ad campaign this week.

Known as the Beef Checkoff Program, the group is running print ads that pitch beef as a good source of protein and the variety of lean cuts it offers. Appropriately, the ads will carry the tagline: “29 lean cuts. One powerful protein.”

An ad for T-bone steak, for instance, shows a mouthwatering shot of the beef alongside grilled vegetables. “When all the steaks get together, they call this one boss,” the ad copy reads. This ad, along with others touting beef filets, ground beef, and top round, appear in this month’s issues of magazines like Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Men’s Health and Self. Radio spots are also launching mid-month.

The Chicago office of Publicis Groupe-owned Leo Burnett handled advertising duties. Starcom is the Beef Checkoff Program’s media buying agency.

This is the first major campaign for the Beef Checkoff Program since its 2008 effort, dubbed “Beefscapes,” which touted beef as a good source of protein. Now, the group is focused on educating health-conscious consumers, said Kim Essex, svp, marketing at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the organization that manages and executes the Beef Checkoff Program’s marketing plans.

“We’re on a storytelling journey with our ‘Beef. It’s what’s for dinner [campaign],’” Essex said, referring to the group’s iconic tagline. “We’re keeping those equities that are really recognizable to us,” but at the same time, stressing the lean side of beef, she said.

The effort stemmed from research that showed consumer interest in leaner meats, but most being unaware that there are 29 such options that meet government standards, Essex said. The target consumer, according to her, “loves food, loves to cook, loves to eat and dine out, but they’re also paying attention to health and reading food labels.”

The push comes as consumers cut back from more expensive cuts of meat. But Essex said that isn’t a concern. Lean beef is still “a really affordable, great meal option. You’ll find good prices on T-bones and sirloins,” she said. “We’re holding pretty strong when it comes to the economy.”

Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group, sees the campaign as mainly a fight for market share. In the ’90s, consumers gravitated away from protein- or meat-based dishes toward foods like pasta and pizza. But that trend tapered off in the early part of this decade, and though consumers aren’t necessarily eating more meat, Balzer said, it’s a question of: “Is it going to be beef, pork, poultry or seafood?”