Letters to the Editor

The Beef Expert Network: How the Beef Checkoff Uses Influencer Marketing to Drive Demand

By Sallie Miller, Briggsdale, Colorado

I'm a cattle producer. I'm a member of the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB). I'm an underwriter for an agricultural lending company. But perhaps most importantly, I'm the mother of a teenage daughter. As my husband and I have navigated the challenges of parenthood, we've made a joint effort to understand social media and its impact. And while social media may have gotten its start with the younger generation, its eruptive growth has spread across audiences of all ages. That growth has led to the rise of influencer marketing as a popular way to promote products and services -- yes, even beef.

But what makes someone an influencer? And why should the beef industry turn to this relatively new form of marketing? Don't all the great qualities of beef -- nutrition, taste, variety -- speak for themselves? These are all questions that my fellow members of the CBB's Domestic Marketing Committee and I had before we started investigating the world of influencer marketing. And here's what we've learned.

Influencers are individuals with perceived expertise or knowledge about certain topics and a decent online following. Their followers view them as trustworthy experts in their fields, and they often have significant power over their audiences' purchasing decisions. Their recommendations can help brands expand their reach and messages. And while beef does have a lot going for it, spreading the word about beef's positive attributes to diverse audiences takes time and effort. That's precisely why influencer marketing has become an important tool for the Beef Checkoff as it continues to drive beef demand.

Currently, 22 influencers are part of the Beef Checkoff's Beef Expert Network. All are passionate about sharing beef's story and promoting beef to their unique audiences. The Beef Checkoff-funded "Beef. It's What's For Dinner" brand works to create long-term relationships with these individuals, and all must have previously expressed passion about beef. They must be credible in their fields, create interesting content -- post copy, videos, photos, graphics -- and share them with engaged audiences on multiple social media platforms.

Individuals in our Beef Expert Network fall into one of four categories.

Food Influencers love food and center their content around recipes, cooking advice and entertaining tips and tricks.

Culinary Influencers often own restaurants or culinary consulting companies. Some are even celebrity chefs, like Hugh Acheson, judge on the popular TV show Top Chef, and Josh Capon, chef and TV personality on the show Frankenfood.

Ag Influencers are cattle producers who want to share accurate information about sustainable, humane production practices.

Nutrition Influencers are trusted nutrition, health and fitness experts who provide health and wellness recommendations to consumers and their professional peers.

The Beef Checkoff creates educational opportunities to provide these influencers with the most up-to-date, beef-focused nutrition, research, culinary and production content. In this way, we can ensure our influencers' content supports Beef Checkoff campaigns and promotes beef efficiently and effectively.

Where does all this content go? Influencers share it with their audiences across digital and social media platforms, but "Beef. It's What's For Dinner" also uses it in its own marketing efforts, including social media. This strategy is especially beneficial with the Ag Influencer group because it helps consumers virtually meet beef farmers and ranchers and learn about beef production right from the source.

Content from the Beef Expert Network is also multipurposed as blogs and articles published in LA Weekly and The New York Times. "Beef. It's What's For Dinner" also hosts media tours where TV and radio stations across the country can interview these influencers about all things beef.

Yes, beef's great taste, variety and nutrition are important selling points. And, yes, social media is often a bit of a minefield, whether you're a teenager or ... someone more mature. But influencers can share all of beef's outstanding qualities with their many social media followers. They can convince skeptical consumers to try new beef recipes, integrate beef into heart-healthy diets and discover the extreme care producers put into raising high-quality beef. In today's world where people look to social media for guidance, influencer marketing is an indispensable tool for all kinds of products and services -- including beef.


The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The Checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States may retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national Checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.


Cattlemen's Beef Board Member

Co-Chair, Domestic Marketing Committee


Letters may be emailed to edit@dtn.com or mailed to Greg Horstmeier, 18205 Capitol Avenue, Omaha, NE 68022.