"Finally. Fully-cooked, fully-prepared beef dishes are in the meat case." That's the latest message from the beef industry to consumers. And backing up that claim are new products such as beef pot roast, meatloaf, meatballs, prime rib, barbecue beef and more. Brands such as Harris Ranch, No Name Steaks, Burnett, RMH Foods and Flint Hills Foods are aggressively searching for those modern consumers who research says have no idea what's for dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon.

The 4:30 p.m. market is huge. In 1996, for instance, 500 million rotisserie chickens were sold. Assuming the birds sold for $5 each, that's a $2.5 billion market! The National Cattlemen's Beef Association is focusing much of its promotion and marketing efforts in 1999 on serving that 4:30 p.m. market.

The convenience theme also will play out in beef's new advertising campaign set to launch this month. The "Beef. It's what's for dinner." campaign, recognized by 72 percent of Americans, returns with new messages about beef dishes that are fully cooked and ready to microwave in about 10 minutes. The majority of these new products come from the undervalued chuck and round.

From Jan. 18 to Feb. 7, Americans will see the first of two advertising "bursts"-frequent and repeated airings of beef's new national television commercials. Celebrity voiceovers return in the new 30-seconds ads that feature actor Sam Elliot, the new voice of beef. Aaron Copeland's "Rodeo" music, featured in the previous "Beef. It's what's for dinner." campaign, also returns.

From April 5 through April 25 the same ads will be repeated in the second "burst." By concentrating the campaign into two three-week bursts, the campaign will have an impact similar to a major promotional advertiser.

In addition to advertising, your checkoff dollars are funding an exciting new product research and development effort (see page 26). The National Cattlemen's Beef Association's New Product Development Team is working to serve as a catalyst for beef and veal product innovation. The New Product Team works with selected meat processors, retailers, food service operators, distributors, packers and other industry members to fuel the development and commercialization of new beef and veal products.

The implementation of beef's new advertising campaign and the new product develop.m.ent effort underscores how your checkoff dollars are working more effectively than ever. We're no longer asking American consumers to eat what we produce. We're showing them that we're working to produce what they want to eat-convenient, wholesome products that can be prepared in 10 minutes.