By Matt Kane
MAPLE PLAIN Television viewers old enough to remember might recall a 1984 commercial where an elderly woman, who is holding an oversized bun with a miniscule hamburger patty in it, asking the camera and viewers “Where’s the beef?”
The answer to the woman’s question, of course, was Wendy’s restaurants.
Today, an answer to the question of Where’s the Beef? is the city of Maple Plain, MN; not in the form of a Wendy’s restaurant but in the form of the Minnesota Beef Council headquarters.
After a 20-plus-year run in Bloomington, the Minnesota Beef Council, which was founded in 1967, moved to the Twin Cities’ western suburbs to the quaint town of Maple Plain, where, on Jan. 1, it opened its doors at 5469 Hwy. 12, the former home of Manor House Interiors and Hetherwood Design and Build.
“Most of the people we talked to have been impressed. They are pleasantly surprised we moved out to this location. We have been embraced positively by the community,” said Director of Marketing Kaye Strohbehn, who is one of four full-time employees of the Minnesota Beef Council. “We are appreciative of the welcoming arms of this community. We look forward to continuing our relationships here in this community, and we welcome people to stop in with questions.”
The move from the frantic, business-crazy Bloomington to quiet, know-your-neighbor Maple Plain seems strange on the surface, but it makes complete sense when considering the job of the Minnesota Beef Council.
“We wanted to be more accessible to our beef producers. A lot of beef production is in the western part of the state. We wanted to be accessible to our producers and our consumer-based audience,” explained Strohbehn, who grew up on a beef farm in Iowa. “We are enjoying being out here. We are now in the center, between our consumer audience, which is in the metro, and close to our producers.”
Being situated between the producers and consumers allows the council to better communicate with everybody involved in the beef community.
“Being able to get our message out to both arenas has been positive,” said Strohbehn.
“We are here to promote beef on behalf of our beef and dairy farmers in the state of Minnesota,” said Strohbehn. “We want consumers to know we produce safe, healthy and wholesome products for their beef consumption. We work with all different beef industry representatives to promote our message.
“Each day, we work with food service and retail experts and all the way up to your restaurant chefs to promote beef.”
A point of emphasis when educating consumers about beef is where that beef comes from.
“The main message we want consumers to understand is that it starts at the farm,” Strohbehn said. “We are a family-valued system here in the beef industries. The farmers and ranchers take pride in promoting a product that is family focused and family raised.”
The Minnesota Beef Council represents close to 18,000 Minnesota farms and ranches that, according to the Minnesota Agriculture Department, produced 1.14 billion pounds of beef in 2013. In that same year, according to the USDA, the United States produced 25.80 billion pounds of beef.
“Our primary focus is to increase beef demand here in the state of Minnesota,” said Strohbehn.
To grow that local demand for beef, the Minnesota Beef Council works in coalition with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on the research, education and promotion of beef. Funding comes from the Beef Checkoff Program, which divides $1, which is paid by a Minnesota producer for every animal sold, in half, giving 50 cents to the Minnesota council and 50 cents to the national council.
The collection and spending of the funds collected through the Beef Checkoff Program are overseen by the Beef Board and the USDA.
Minnesota is one of 45 states with a council involved in the Beef Checkoff Program.
The Beef Checkoff Program provided the funding for the well-known national advertising campaign, “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner,” which was launched through the Beef Council on May 18, 1992, by the Chicago-based National Livestock and Meat Board.
The slogan is the backbone of national and local promotions of healthy beef consumption.
“We work a lot on that; and to drive consumer demand of our product, and we also work to enhance research, whether that be nutrition, and in how beef fits into a healthy diet,” said Strohbehn.
Minnesota Beef Council’s website mnbeef.org includes a section titled “Beef Up Your Diet.” The pull-down menu includes seven selections: Beef and Health Heart, Surprising Lean Beef, Nutrition Resources, Beef Safety, Cooking Tips and Techniques, Recipe Search, and Shopping for Beef.”
To go with the website, the Minnesota Beef Council is also on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
“There is an influx of millennial consumers, and these are great ways to reach that particular audience,” said Strohbehn.
Promoting the consumption of beef has its challenges.
While criticizing the patty sizes of its competitors, the 1984 Wendy’s commercial promoted more meat in its burgers. In more recent years, as consumers have grown more heath conscious, beef has taken shots from advertisers, who promote alternatives to red meat.
The illiterate holsteins on the commercial spots of the all-chicken fast-food chain Chick-fil-a, instruct consumers to “Eat mor chikin.”
It is the job of the Minnesota Beef Council, on behalf of the state’s beef producers, to convince consumers to eat more beef.
Beef seems to be holding its own against the anti-beef promotions, according to Strohbehn.
“We are continuing to see high beef prices, but, even with the high prices, beef has seen a high demand at the same time,” she said. “It is continually in high demand.”
The reason beef is still what’s for dinner is quite simple, according to Strohbehn.
“There is something about beef that people love, and that is the taste and the flavor aspect,” she said. “It is a unique product, and it is a pleasure to be able to promote beef on behalf of our producers and farmers.”