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Tennessee is set for yearly Beef and Forage Field Day
Tennessee Correspondent

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Each spring, the University of Tennessee (UT) sponsors a Beef and Forage Field Day for producers to learn more about specific issues.

This year’s field day, planned for June 15 at the Blount Unit of UT’s East Tennessee Research and Education Center, will again feature field workshops with live animals. Scheduled topics include tips on cow-culling, bull selection, hay quality and feeding needs, controlling weeds and general pasture management.

Preceding these talks will be a panel discussion on trends and patterns in consumer beef demand, and what they mean for producers. Two marketing and retail experts will join UT Livestock Marketing Specialist Emmit Rawls on the panel.

“I’m a retailer,” said Steve Holloway, director of meat operations for Virginia-based K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., which operates the Food City grocery chain in Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. “I’ve never raised cattle. But I do have to sell it.”

This is his first foray into a local producers’ forum. He said this is new for K-VA-T, too, because it works mostly with national meat packers such as Swift & Co., Excel and Tyson (formerly IBP) and not so much with those who raise livestock.

His remarks will focus on Food City’s Certified Angus Beef program, which the company has been promoting for six years. Food City boasts meat cut fresh each day, with no additives, and the Certified Angus program additionally promises shoppers higher-quality beef than can be found at other grocery chains.

“It’s made a huge difference in (consumers’) overall perception,” Holloway, who has worked for K-VA-T since 1990, said. “It differentiates us from Wal-Mart and Kroger case-ready beef.”

Holloway pointed out because USDA grading includes standards for marbling, tenderness and leanness, making producers better aware of consumers’ current preferences gives them an edge for cattle breeding and sales.

Valerie Bass has a similar message. The Tennessee Beef Industry Council executive director will also be on the panel to talk about how the council’s checkoff program funds consumer research on behalf of beef producers.

“For about the last 20 years, it’s the working mom, who is time-starved,” Bass said of the primary U.S. beef buyer. “She really is the gatekeeper to the plate.”

That is changing somewhat, she said. Young mothers feed families, but aging Baby Boomers means smaller portions in more households. Market research is also determining how to best appeal to a growing Hispanic population.

Bass explained Council-funded research has been used by the foodservice industry to create more “heat-and-serve” products with beef over the past several years to appeal to consumers and “to stay in front of, or at least parallel to, eating trends.” Research has also found ways to add value to the beef carcass by identifying choicer cuts, which can be saved from ground beef and marketed separately for higher prices.

“It’s made the difference between meat going into the grinder and meat going into individual cuts,” she said, explaining part of her job involves selling restauranteurs on the concept of marketing these individual slices of beef to diners.

The Field Day will begin at 7:30 a.m. with activities and a trade show. Those wanting to attend should register by June 9 with either their county extension office or by calling 865-974-7201. After lunch, instructors will offer producers Beef Quality Assurance training, if enough attendees preregister for it.

This farm news was published in the May 31, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.