Marshall, Minn. — Consumer tastes that constantly change are a challenge for most retailers, marketers and product developers. But those who understand their customers gain more of the retail dollar.

The beef industry gets it.

To keep beef on the dinner menu in a health-conscious market, AURI and the Minnesota Beef Council are collaborating to inform consumers and processors on beef-industry trends. They are holding workshops and demonstrations on alternative merchandising, value-added beef cuts, food safety and nutrition, and are training post-secondary agriculture students on industry trends.

“We want these students … who will be on the front lines of consumer questions and concerns … to be well informed going into their careers,” says Colleen Zenk, director of nutrition and consumer information for the Minnesota Beef Council. “Most consumers are so disconnected from where their food comes from, and there is a lot of misinformation out there.”

This fall, AURI meat scientist Carissa Nath trained students from Minnesota West Technical College in Worthington on nutrition, food safety and alternative beef merchandising at AURI’s meat lab in Marshall.

Nath says the average cattle market weight has increased from 1,100 pounds in 1975 to nearly 1,300 pounds today, through efficient management and improved genetics. Heavier carcasses yield more large-muscle cuts that consumers don’t always want.

“You often get larger portions when there are a growing number of consumers who want smaller ones,” Nath says. “We’re trying to educate processors about cutting techniques to optimize the beef carcass and still offer what many health-conscious consumers want.”

Trends also show consumers are eating out less but want high-quality cuts at home, Nath says. Retailers are responding by offering more convenience cuts.