New Branded-Beef Program Targets High-End Consumers
By Tonya Perez, AgTown Technologies
With today’s market challenges, now more than ever, beef producers need to minimize ranch expenses while maximizing harvest premiums to capture the most profit. Meanwhile, with the COVID-19 pandemic leaving some grocery shelves empty, consumers are increasingly interested in buying their food closer to home. With tremendous opportunity knocking at the door, the American Aberdeen Association® (AAA) has boldly entered the room with Aberdeen Premium Beef™, a superior-quality, branded-beef program geared toward upscale consumers. “The taste, texture and tenderness of Aberdeen Premium Beef is exceptional,” says Neil Effertz, North Dakota American Aberdeen breeder and AAA secretary-treasurer. “Our retail customers who have purchased Aberdeen Premium Beef marvel at the meat’s fine texture and intense, robust flavor.”
Craig Walker, AAA president and New Mexico cattleman, echoes that breeders across the country can’t keep American Aberdeen beef in stock; once they try it, it’s their No. 1 choice in beef.
Combined with the white tablecloth-level taste that could headline menus at the finest restaurants in New York City or Los Angeles, Aberdeen Premium Beef has a special appeal to consumers as the most environmentally friendly beef product available. “Aberdeen Premium Beef is an eco-friendly product that appeals to environmentally conscientious consumers,” Walker says. “It’s not going to negatively impact the environment because American Aberdeen cattle use one-third less feed and spend one-third less time on feed to finish earlier with a high percentage of Choice and Prime grades. And all this can be done without added hormones.
“With one-third less impact on the environment, no other breed of cattle can claim moresustainability and a lower carbon footprint than American Aberdeen cattle,” he adds. The brand targets a different consumer than the average branded-beef program. The designer beef appeals to an urban customer who has disposable income and wants to feel good about
how they are making the world a better place.
“We aren’t trying to put American Aberdeen beef in McDonald’s Happy Meals,” Walker says. “This product is geared toward a consumer shopping at a Whole Foods Market or designer boutique grocery store. We want consumers to recognize the eco-friendly values of this product and look forward to having it again.”
For cattle producers selling their beef locally, the more proportionately correct carcass halves or quarters also fit most consumers’ freezer space better, plus it fits their health better, too, Walker says.
“If my doctor told me I could only eat X amount of steak, I don’t want a 21-inch ribeye that slices up to be a quarter of an inch thick. That’s not a good dining experience. I want a 12-inch ribeye that is 1 1/4 inches thick. That’s a much better sit-down, gourmet-type dining experience.”
For consumers who also yearn for a taste of yesteryear, Aberdeen Premium Beef wins again. While American Aberdeen cattle may seem new to some U.S. ranchers, the genetics actually trace back to the original Angus cattle hailing from Scotland, when beef was king of the plate. American Aberdeen genetics are the result of the top genetics from the Angus breed in 1929 that were purchased and maintained in a closed research herd in Australia. Effertz imported some of those genetics into the United States in 1996, and now, to ensure the breed’s purity, American Aberdeen breeders DNA verify their registered seedstock. With less gene dilution, today’s American Aberdeen cattle maintain profitability at the cow-calf level through moderate cow size, efficiency and the traditional eating quality of Angus genetics that make consumers crave beef above all other proteins.
How the Consumers’ Win Means Gains for Commercial Producers
Breeding calves tailored for the Aberdeen Premium Beef program rewards commercial producers twofold — premiums for your steer calves after harvest and improvements to your cow herd’s efficiency and bottom line with retained heifer calves. Three cow herd problems can be solved in one breeding season.
“You can eliminate all calving difficulties with your first-calf heifers, while also moderating your cow size if you retain those females,” Effertz says. “We know that you can produce more
pounds of beef per acre by taking about 300 pounds off your mature cow size.” At the other end of the production chain, American Aberdeens reach premium quality grades and a desirable finish weight quicker and cheaper than most breeds, and that puts money back
into your pocket.
“Our goal is to get a $10 per hundredweight premium on Aberdeen Premium Beef cattle at harvest, so a 1,250-pound American Aberdeen-cross steer would see a $125 premium,” Effertz explains. “If you add additional labels to Aberdeen Premium Beef such as no hormone, all natural or grass fed, premiums might be significantly more than that.” The Aberdeen Premium Beef label is a baseline age- and source-verified program that will allow additional labels if the producer so desires. The AAA Board worked with IMI Global to provide third-party source, age and breed verification on the cattle. As the No. 1 provider of verification services to the food industry, Effertz says IMI Global’s involvement in the beef industry will help producers communicate to consumers about the health, safety and welfare of American Aberdeen beef.
Walker says the only limitation cattle producers have with this program is the limitation they put on themselves.
“IMI Global has every certification available,” he explains. “If you want to build a grass-fed, branded product, IMI Global can take you through every step of that process, while maintaining
the standards for Aberdeen Premium Beef. The ground-level tool allows you to take your product however far you want to go as a breeder.”
Doubling Down on How the Program Works
To participate in the program, you must first have a premise ID from your state veterinarian’s office. This is normally a free process. To find contact information for your state, visit
Second, you must be Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified. You can complete this online certification in fewer than three hours at www.bqa.org/bqa-certification.
The third requirement is that all calves entering the Aberdeen Premium Beef program must be out of a registered American Aberdeen bull or cow that is classified as a Fullblood, Moderator®,
Moderator Plus® or Aberdeen Plus®, and whose DNA is on file with with the AAA. If you need help finding an eligible sire or dam, visit AAA’s website, www.AmericanAberdeen.com.
The fourth step is to register with IMI Global and obtain electronic ID tags. There is an initial $5- per-animal charge at the onset of the process with the first $3 going to IMI Global, and the
remaining $2 to be paid to AAA for general product promotion. Included in that charge is an EID tag that ties your calves to your premise ID number and stays with the individual animal
throughout the process to maintain traceability. For more information about tags or to download an application form, click here. Contact information for IMI Global is provided at this link as well.
Cattle will then need to be fed out and harvested through an IMI Global-certified feeding system and processing facility to maintain source and age verification. At harvest, there is an $8
per head fee, of which AAA receives $5 and IMI Global receives $3.
Adding Value for Seedstock Breeders
Having come full circle, Aberdeen Premium Beef drives market demand for American Aberdeen seedstock.
“One goal of Aberdeen Premium Beef is to create market demand for American Aberdeen genetics from commercial producers who are wanting to produce this beef,” Effertz says. “I think everybody in the seedstock business ultimately has the goal of genetically producing cattle that produce desirable and more efficient beef,” he adds. “We have the capability of producing an extremely desirable product for the retail market that will also drive bull demand for American Aberdeen breeders.”
“We have a special product with an end game market for cattlemen,” Walker explains, summing up the program’s opportunities. “This is not your average branded-beef product. We are an elite, designer beef breed. We are embracing our place in the market with this product. The possibilities are endless.” And that’s a win for ranchers and consumers alike.