ORLANDO, Fla. – The goal of the Annual Meat Conference each year is to educate meat and poultry merchandisers on the most effective ways to sell more meat to consumers. Attendees at this year’s three-day conference had the opportunity to learn from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and The Beef Checkoff about how to improve beef sales. The beef organizations, alongside Merck Animal Health, introduced their newest online training program – Better Beef Sales – in Orlando, Feb. 19-21.

Better Beef Sales is a new Web-based training tool designed to position employees as experts on modern beef production practices, said Meghan Pusey, channel marketing director for NCBA. “Better-educated associates enhance customer loyalty, offering the opportunity to boost beef sales and profits,” she added.

NCBA and The Beef Checkoff recognized the need for more training of meat-counter employees after Merck Animal Health conducted a series of consumer panels. The panels found consumers identify the staff behind the counter as experts. Carrie Thomas, account manager for food chain affairs for Merck Animal Health, said the need for training was quickly confirmed during retailer discussions.

“We conducted four panels in two cities. One of the key take-away messages from those meetings was consumers still identify the person in the ‘white coat’ behind the meat counter — the ‘butcher’ — as the beef expert,” Thomas said. “And, we want them to be beef experts. To do that, we need to arm them with information about today’s beef supply and how it’s produced.”

Consumer decisions about the products they buy are more complex than they ever have been before. Some consumers take into account how animals were raised, sustainability and animal welfare when purchasing meat. Unfortunately, answering questions on those topics isn’t always easy for retail meat-counter employees, Pusey explained. This new initiative is intended to bridge the knowledge gap between the consumer and their food, Thomas added.

The Better Beef Sales training program is a six-segment online video-training program that is offered free of charge. Users watch each video, which feature recognizable experts covering topics of modern production practices and beef improvement technologies and the role they play in beef production, then take a series of quizzes and activities to test knowledge retention and reinforce key points to takeaway. The program can be completed in approximately two hours, although the student can stop and start the program at any time and return to complete it at a later time.

After completing all six segments, the user will receive a downloadable certificate of completion in addition to some key talking points that can be used at store level to help employees communicate what they’ve learned with customers.

The program currently contains six segments including types and quality of beef offered today; sustainability of today’s beef; animal welfare practices; beef-improvement technologies; and ways retailers can add value to the meat case. There are plans to add more topics in the future.

“As cattle numbers continue to decrease and retail beef supplies become tighter, it’s going to take more effort to keep beef center of the plate,” Thomas said. “We want to make sure retail employees and consumers understand how their beef is produced and how these wholesome, quality products end up on our dinner tables.”

NCBA is planning a Webinar in March to help walk people through the program. To learn more about the Better Beef Sales retail education program, visit www.BeefRetail.org.