By CBW Staff
The beef industry could benefit by dropping the term “conventional beef” in describing products from mainstream production systems, and instead, focus on using the term “traditional beef” with consumers. That’s the advice of a New York City-based market research analyst who has conducted numerous focus groups with women consumers about their perceptions of beef.
Mary Lou Quinlan says women still account for about 93% of food purchases in the United States, and the good news is that they feel a strong emotional connection to beef. But that connection just needs to be reinforced with some positive messages.
Quinlan is CEO of a New York City market-research firm called “Just Ask a Woman,” that specializes in measuring women’s attitudes. Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health contracted with the firm to conduct a study into the perceptions and attitudes of women toward beef and the beef-production system, and to develop positive communications messages. 
Just Ask a Woman conducted in-depth interviews with over 100 women from the East Coast and Midwest and uncovered some interesting trends, according to Quinlan and Tracy Chapman, co-director of brand insights for the firm. 
The findings revealed that the term “traditional beef” communicates the idea that the beef results from established production practices proven over time to provide animal health, food safety, wholesomeness and value.
Quinlan adds that in marketing efforts, the beef industry should strive to emphasize three “emotional pillars” of traditional beef that appear to resonate with female consumers:
• Trust - Farm families care about their animals and beef quality.
• Safety - Oversight from the USDA and FDA assures that today’s beef is safer than ever.
• Freedom of choice - Shoppers want control over their food-purchase decisions.
Additional Findings
From her research, Quinlan says women feel confused and frustrated by the mixed messages they receive about food, and they don’t like others trying to make them feel guilty about what they serve to their families. 
“Women want to feel in control of their family’s dinner table,” she says. They just want the facts …Women value having the freedom to choose from a variety of meat products in various price ranges, and select the products that work for them and their families. 
Quinlan says terms such as “organic” or “sustainable” are confusing to women as they apply to beef. They are unclear about the differences between these products and skeptical over whether their higher prices relate to value. 
Additionally, the term “feed additive,” for example, raises doubts, while the term “feed supplement” is more acceptable, especially when backed by assurances that feed supplements are extensively tested and regulated to protect animal health and food safety.
Likewise, the women tended to prefer the term “farmer” over “cattle feeder” or “rancher.”
From the study, Quinlan says the message for the beef industry is that rather than portray “organic” or “natural” beef as the enemy, or promote the price advantage of “conventional” beef, we should focus on freedom of choice, stressing that shoppers can select from a variety of lean, healthy and safe beef products with different attributes and price points.
Quinlan says the study also reveals opportunities to protect beef’s image with American women by changing some of the terminology- to “tell the story on her terms.” The message that resonates with women, she says, is that most of our beef comes from family farms, many of which have been in the same families for generations. These family farmers have improved their practices over the years and care about their animals and the beef they produce, which they feed to their own children. “There is a tradition to beef that they would like to have reinforced,” she says.
The beef industry could benefit by dropping the term “conventional beef” in describing products from mainstream production systems, and instead, focus on using the term “traditional beef” with consumers. That’s the advice of a New York City-based market research analyst who has conducted numerous focus groups with women consumers about their perceptions of beef.
Mary Lou Quinlan says women still account for about 93% of food purchases in the United States, and the good news is that they feel a strong emotional connection to beef. But that connection just needs to be reinforced with some positive messages.
Quinlan is CEO of a New York City market-research firm called “Just Ask a Woman,” that specializes in measuring women’s attitudes. Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health contracted with the firm to conduct a study into the perceptions and attitudes of women toward beef and the beef-production system, and to develop positive communications messages. 
Just Ask a Woman conducted in-depth interviews with over 100 women from the East Coast and Midwest and uncovered some interesting trends, according to Quinlan and Tracy Chapman, co-director of brand insights for the firm. 
The findings revealed that the term “traditional beef” communicates the idea that the beef results from established production practices proven over time to provide animal health, food safety, wholesomeness and value.
Quinlan adds that in marketing efforts, the beef industry should strive to emphasize three “emotional pillars” of traditional beef that appear to resonate with female consumers:
• Trust - Farm families care about their animals and beef quality.
• Safety - Oversight from the USDA and FDA assures that today’s beef is safer than ever.
• Freedom of choice - Shoppers want control over their food-purchase decisions.
Additional Findings
From her research, Quinlan says women feel confused and frustrated by the mixed messages they receive about food, and they don’t like others trying to make them feel guilty about what they serve to their families. 
“Women want to feel in control of their family’s dinner table,” she says. They just want the facts …Women value having the freedom to choose from a variety of meat products in various price ranges, and select the products that work for them and their families. 
Quinlan says terms such as “organic” or “sustainable” are confusing to women as they apply to beef. They are unclear about the differences between these products and skeptical over whether their higher prices relate to value. 
Additionally, the term “feed additive,” for example, raises doubts, while the term “feed supplement” is more acceptable, especially when backed by assurances that feed supplements are extensively tested and regulated to protect animal health and food safety.
Likewise, the women tended to prefer the term “farmer” over “cattle feeder” or “rancher.”
From the study, Quinlan says the message for the beef industry is that rather than portray “organic” or “natural” beef as the enemy, or promote the price advantage of “conventional” beef, we should focus on freedom of choice, stressing that shoppers can select from a variety of lean, healthy and safe beef products with different attributes and price points.
Quinlan says the study also reveals opportunities to protect beef’s image with American women by changing some of the terminology- to “tell the story on her terms.” The message that resonates with women, she says, is that most of our beef comes from family farms, many of which have been in the same families for generations. These family farmers have improved their practices over the years and care about their animals and the beef they produce, which they feed to their own children. “There is a tradition to beef that they would like to have reinforced,” she says.