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TV Ads Too Expensive In Hard Times

The high cost of advertising and a struggling U. S. beef industry have forced the popular “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” ads off television and it does not appear they will be returning any time soon, an industry official said Jan. 27.

Voiced over the years by actors Robert Mitchum, James Garner and Sam Elliott, the ads featured a catchy musical number while the narrator extolled beef’s virtues as a quick-to-fix, nutritional food, ending with the tagline “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner.”

When advertising rates went up and the beef industry’s revenues went down, the ads were pulled some time ago.

Now, the industry’s promotional money is spent on “point-of-purchase” materials in supermarkets, overseas promoting U. S. beef to foreign buyers, or on the Internet, Tom Jones, secretary-treasurer of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, told Reuters.

Jones and thousands of other producers were in San Antonio for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association annual convention. The NCBA is the nation’s largest cattle group.

“We have not been on TV for some time simply because of the economies of doing TV with reduced revenues on the checkoff,” said Jones.

The checkoff is money collected from cattle producers that pays for beef advertisements and promotions. That money is collected from cattle producers at a rate of $1 for every head of cattle sold.

In the past, those collections totalled about $86 million, but because of the smaller cattle herd, they are now about $80 million, said Jones.

The $1-per-head rate started in 1987 and Jones said it is no longer enough to pay for the higher cost of television ads.

The beef and cattle industry is struggling, with cattle producers, on average, losing money for the past two years.

While advertising is often a way to generate business in tough economic times, Jones said the money is not there to do it.

In addition to a dollar not buying as much as it did in 1987, Jones said there are fewer cattle from which to collect the money. Because of high feed costs, slow beef sales, and a loss of exports because of mad cow disease, the U. S. cattle herd is now the smallest in nearly 50 years.

“We are doing advertising. We are mostly in print and radio,” he said. “We are working a lot in the export markets, because we know 96 per cent of the people in this world live outside this country.”

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