Branded Beef: What Makes a Brand?

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 With more and more products competing for shelf space, it is imperative that you set yourself apart. Traditionally, a brand was a label of ownership but today brands are more about what they do for people than just a descriptive word or symbol for a name, team or design. Benefits of a product are more important than its features.

Branded beef is marketed based on its attributes, or rather the characteristics that set it apart from a generic beef product; how it improves their quality of life and enables them to do more. Capitalizing on consumer ideals and demands for particular attributes is key to the success of a brand. After all, it is the consumer’s need or want for a particular attribute that makes them willing to pay more for a branded product.

Beef attributes require specific production practices and considerations. Rather than marketing a single attribute, two or more attributes are often combined to create a product that fits into both current and future consumer demands, such as certified organic and age verified.

The following list highlights some commonly marketed branded beef attributes and is not meant to be all-inclusive.

Certified Organic
  • Organic foods and products are derived from agronomic systems that exclude the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, growth promotants, feed additives and antibiotics. Production systems that are certified organic adhere to specific standards and guidelines in their production and processing operations. This certification procedure helps ensure the organic integrity of the product for both the retailers and consumers
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) – Organic Regulation - The Organic Products Regulations will require mandatory certification to the revised National Organic Standard for agricultural products represented as organic in import, export and inter-provincial trade, or that bear the federal organic agricultural product legend (or logo) - Coming into force 2009-06-30
  • Farm to Fork: Organics in Alberta - The purpose of this project was to get a better picture of the organic industry in Alberta and Canada - from farm to fork. This was acoomplished by looking at three areas: the Alberta producers and processors, the Canadian organic consumer, and a Canadian retail grocery snapshot

‘Free From’
  • ‘Free From’ is often used when marketing branded products to indicate that a product does not contain one or more attributes that are generally undesirable to the consumer such as growth promoting implants, antibiotics, feed additives and animal by-products
  • Growth Promotants include:
    • Natural hormones (ie. estrogen, testosterone, progesterone)
    • Synthetic hormones (ie. zeranol, trenbolone acetate)
    • Estrus suppressants (ie. melengestrol acetate)
    • Beta-agonists (ie. Optaflexx)
  • Antibiotics include:
    • Therapeutic antibiotics (in response to actual illness)
    • Subtherapeutic antibiotics (ie. tetracycline, tylosin phosphate, ionophores)
  • Feed additives are products used in animal nutrition for purposes of improving the quality of feed and the quality of food from animal origin, or to improve the animals’ performance and health (ie. providing enhanced digestibility of the feed materials)
  • Feed additives may not be put on the market unless authorization has been given following a scientific evaluation demonstrating that the additive has no harmful effects, on human and animal health or on the environment

  • According to the CFIA lean beef is 17% fat (extra lean is 10%)
  • Examples of breeds with high lean meat yield include Charolais, Limousin and Piedmontese to name a few

Local ‘Story’
  • Cattle that are specifically raised and sold with a story that typically includes characteristics that make the consumer feel good. Advertises where the cattle come from, how they are raised and by whom. Local ‘story' beef is often marketed using ‘value propositions’ (elements that are important to the consumer) such as, palatability, locality, environmental stewardship, real or perceived safety, humane treatment of animals, etc.

Age-and Source Verified
  • Age verification is the association of animal birth date information with an Animal Identification Number (single tag or tag group). Producers can submit their age information electronically to a centralized database and have it readily available throughout the industry

  • Beef breeds originate from pure and crossbred livestock that were originally bred for particular geographical and climatic environments and consumer preferences

Omega 3 Enhanced
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are a specific type of unsaturated fat that the body cannot manufacture on its own, so they must be obtained from food. A large body of evidence exists to suggest that Omega-3 fatty acids have considerable health benefits, including anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant effects and beneficial effects on cholesterol levels

  • Beef tenderness is a function of genetics, pre-harvesting cattle management, early post-mortem processing, post-mortem ageing and cooking technique. Beef tenderness is one of the most important palatability attributes

Other Beef Attributes

National standards and confusion between labels such as Natural and Grassfed often complicate the attributes listed below. Keep in mind that no clear definition or regualtions exist for these particular beef attribtues.

** Natural
  • In Canada - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates the use of the words "Nature", "natural", "Mother Nature", and "Nature's Way" when it comes to labeling products. These terms are often misused on labels and in advertisements. This may be misleading, as some consumers may consider foods described as "natural" of greater worth than foods not so described. For more information please see the Guide to Food Labeling and Advertising - Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
  • In the United States - The definition of natural varies among different brands and programs. Natural beef has no formal certification process. The Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA) describes natural as ‘minimally processed with no additives’

Grass Fed
  • The USDA grass fed standard states that “the diet shall be derived solely from forage and animals cannot be fed grain or grain by-products and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. With the exception of milk (consumed prior to weaning), grass and/or forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal.”
  • Producing Forage Finished Beef Manual - This booklet has been produced by the Manitoba Forage Council for those producers interested in delving into the niche market. The document provides a detailed description of the elements required to produce high quality beef on a forage only diet

Additional Information

Other Documents in the Series

  Branded Beef: What is Branded Beef?
Branded Beef: Why Brand?
Branded Beef: Where is the Market?
Branded Beef: What Makes a Brand? - Current Document
Branded Beef: Who Is Branding Beef in Alberta?
Branded Beef: What Happens Behind The Brand?
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Kathy Bosse.
This document is maintained by Ordella Knopf.
This information published to the web on May 20, 2008.
Last Reviewed/Revised on May 22, 2018.