Colorado cattleman chairs the Beef Board with an eye on value
Hugh Sanburg has taken the reins as the 2021 chair of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. A cow calf man from Eckert, Colo., Sanburg is focused on driving demand for beef.
The Beef Checkoff is celebrating 35 years and he said the $1 per head collected is worth about 1/3 less than it was when the program was enacted. Notably, he said, the beef industry produces more beef now than 35 years ago, using 1/3 fewer cattle, decreasing the amount of check off dollars funding the program. It is, he said, an exercise in efficiency. That same efficiency mirrors the industry that is built upon sustainability.
As for a potential referendum, Sanburg said that is certainly the right of producers but he encourages producers to examine the reports about how the dollars are spent and consider what life for producers might look like sans checkoff.
“Who would be doing the advertising for the products, doing the research on greenhouse gases and environmental sustainability, what would fill that void if you didn’t have the checkoff?” he asked. “I think that’s a good question to ask yourself when you’re looking at that referendum because it’s not a vote to change the checkoff, it’s a vote up or down, whether to keep the checkoff at the national level or not.”
A large majority of states would lose funding for their state beef councils if the national checkoff was discontinued, he said, changing the marketing and promotion at a state level as well.
As restrictions are slowly lifted, Sanberg said the demand for beef will be interesting to follow. Demand for beef held up well during the height of COVID, he said, both in the U.S. and in the export market.
“There were some challenges with Mexico, which is our third largest export market, but that was somewhat two-fold as they had a serious devaluation of the peso and economics played a big role in that downturn,” he said. “Looking at Japan, Korea, and Taiwan — China is still a small market but it’s growing and there’s a huge population base there — adds about $300 per carcass on export value.”
Placing underutilized product, he said, into a market that values it is the real benefit of export markets. The checkoff’s marketing in other countries varies widely as well, he said.
“The example Dan Halstrom at USMEF (United States Meat Export Federation) likes to use is our sending beef lips to Mexico for tacos for $1.60 per pound,” he said. “They would have gone to rendering for 6 or 8 cents. That’s an extreme example but we send a number of cuts to other countries that are underutilized here.”
Sanburg said producers can look at the return on investment for the dollars invested and see that while some programs are better than others, each piece builds on itself and makes each other piece more effective to drive demand and get the best results.
A producer himself, Sanburg’s family operation includes commercial and seedstock cattle. He has served at all levels within Colorado Farm Bureau before he was nominated and accepted a post on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board.
“It became apparent to me early on that I wanted to do all I could to help benefit the industry,” he said. “It’s an industry that has served me well and has given me a lifestyle I enjoy and I’m able to make a living and this is a way I can give back to this industry.”
He began on the CBB’s Export Growth Committee and became involved in the United States Meat Export Foundation executive committee before serving as the vice chair of the CBB in 2020.
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