by Maggie O’Quinn/ new business development manager, Midan Marketing
Recent Nielsen data tells the story of grassfed beef’s dramatic domestic growth: U.S. retail sales of labeled fresh grassfed beef grew from $17 million in 2012 to $272 million in 2016, doubling every year.
But beyond these impressive numbers, I recently saw firsthand how the commitment and passion of grassfed producers and processors are helping fuel this momentum when I attended the 2018 Grassfed Exchange in Rapid City, South Dakota. At this conference for regenerative producers and sustainable food supporters, more than 500 individuals from 41 states, four Canadian provinces, two Australian territories, New Zealand, England and Denmark gathered to talk about the future of grassfed beef.
Organizers chose “Amplify” as the conference theme, and it aptly reflects the participants’ goals for the continued growth of the grassfed beef sector. The grassfed folks are obviously doing something right, and the meat industry can learn from their approach: they are looking ahead, collaborating, educating and telling their story. Here are some of the reasons I left South Dakota inspired:
- Grassfed is “hip”: Younger generations are embracing regenerative agriculture; there were a record number of young families (with their toddlers in tow) under age 30 in attendance. Their passion for regenerative agriculture and creative storytelling runs deep, and they are actively sharing their strong beliefs with others of their generation. Meet one young lady with a moving message about her family’s ranch for her Gen Z counterparts: Kate Rasmussen from 33 Ranch.
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- Grassfed is getting marketing-savvy: The regional marketing opportunities for grassfed beef are strong. Many ranchers I met are eager to tell their stories by partnering with retailers and foodservice establishments where they live. I was inspired by the business acumen of Cody Hopkins, a visionary first-generation farmer from Arkansas who holds a physics degree and founded the Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative to connect fellow farmers with distribution and marketing channels. Learn more about Cody’s vision for the Grass Roots co-op.
- Grassfed is forward-thinking: Renowned international sustainable agriculture leader Fred Kirschenmann reminded attendees that we must keep imagining what the future looks like and how we as an industry will respond to the changes coming our way in the next 30 years. How will we as an industry exceed the expectations of tomorrow’s consumers? (We’ve all heard the projections: By 2050, the world population will be close to 10 billion, requiring 75 percent more meat and 65 percent more dairy to accommodate this growth.)
- Grassfed knows how to tell its story: Leslie Moore, founder of Farmer Girl Meats, discussed the importance of selling your “why” versus your “what”—a wise tactic for meat companies striving to emotionally connect to consumers. Marshall Johnson, VP and executive director of Audubon Dakota, shared a particularly relevant example of this with Audubon’s conservation ranching program that benefits grassland bird habitats. Learn more about how “bird friendly” beef labels on retail meat packages are resonating with consumers.
If we in the meat industry take our cues from the grassfed movement and come together to “amplify” our commitment to our products and to our customers, I believe that we can help “multiply” sales and consumer trust in the same way that the passionate ranchers and processors of the Grassfed Exchange have.
How are you preparing to “amplify”?
*Editors note: This article originally appeared on midanmarketing.com.