While the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) brand logo is highly recognized among consumers and producers, many do not realize we also have “brand extensions” including products qualified and marketed under CAB brand Prime, Natural and a combination of the two, CAB brand Prime Natural. The natural labeled products are there to fill demand from consumers who prefer beef from cattle that have come through a documented ownership chain back to the source of origin, known to have consumed a 100% vegetarian diet and to have never had an antibiotic or supplemental hormone. These added attributes under the “natural” production claims do not replace or negate the brand’s “Angus type” eligibility requirement and 10 carcass quality standards that ensure the same eating quality of our traditional CAB products. While media influences make it seem like American consumers are ever-more interested in production claims regarding all of their food choices, reality shows sales of beef products with the range of such claims remain a small fraction of total beef sales. The accompanying pie chart shows data for sales, in terms of dollar value, of all U.S. beef at retail for the 2nd quarter of 2017.
The gray pie wedge is the collective sales value of all beef with any type of animal production claim including naturally raised, grass fed, organic, no hormones, no antibiotics and combinations of the these claims. The sales share in the 2nd quarter made up just 4.3% of total beef sales value, while the volume in pounds was just 3.2% of all beef. The lion’s share of the production claims landed in the “naturally raised” category, totaling right at 2%. Since 2011, the growth in all production claims on a tonnage basis shows a modest increase from around 2.5% to the most recent 3.2%. It’s important from a cattle production standpoint to recognize that while these specialty beef items are important to fulfilling the demand of a market segment that we are proud to service, by far the majority of consumers are selecting traditional beef products at U.S. retailers.
When devising a production plan for “natural” and other niche program cattle, producers will do well to closely consider the cost-benefit side of the equation, especially as it relates to production efficiencies. Having a known market outlet for specific sets of cattle is also advisable in market niches that can quickly become saturated with supply.