Celebrate May Beef Month in Iowa

'I'll take a burger with a side of burger,' since it's also National Hamburger Month.

For over 40 years, the month of May has been celebrated as Beef Month in Iowa. May is also National Hamburger Month, which makes it time to recognize the more than 800,000 dedicated men and women around the nation who produce high quality, wholesome, nutritious beef known throughout the world. "It's a good time to hail to the hamburger and bow to the beef producer," says Brian Waddingham of the Iowa Beef Industry Council.

Hamburgers. It may seem as simple as a food that got its name from Hamburg, Germany. But the original ground beef patty on a bun may have been from the Mongols who brought it to Russia; seafarers that brought the patty idea back to the port city of Hamburg; Louis' Lunch - the New Haven, Conn., burger joint; "Hamburger Charlie" Nagreen; or, the Menches Brothers. But it seems no matter what the tale, the ending is still the same – consumers love a good burger, notes Waddingham.

Not all ground beef goes in to making the perfect burger. Two years ago the checkoff-funded ground beef initiative kicked off with these things in mind: improving consumer perceptions of ground beef's nutritional value and health benefits; increasing availability and access to ground beef and ground beef products; communicating positive messages about ground beef; and adding value through processing improvements and product innovation.

Leaner hamburger is a hit with consumers

"Just like hamburgers aren't only made in May, beef producers don't just produce food only one month of the year. It's what we do every day – bringing healthy, nutritious food from our pastures to consumers' plates," says Iowa Beef Industry Council Chairman Will Frazee, a farmer-feeder from Emerson, Ia. "Our beef checkoff continues to work to increase consumer demand through things such as the ground beef initiative, grocery store promotions, summer grilling and so many other programs."

One component of the ground beef initiative included testing consumer appeal of an extra lean burger patty, where it received extremely high consumer marks. The ground beef initiative nutrition message is resonating with consumers. Consumers bought an additional 85 million pounds of 78% lean (or better) ground beef at the grocery store in 2007 when compared to 2004. The fastest growing subcategory during this period was 85% to 89% lean beef. And, a 95% extra-lean patty now is available to school foodservice and households where leanness is an important buying consideration.

Still, no matter how you slice it, hamburgers still are the most popular beef item for consumers, adds Waddingham. Americans consumed approximately 11.9 billion burgers in 2007. And 41% percent of Americans eat burgers at least once a week and 85% eat burgers once a month. That's a reason to tip your hat to beef producers. For more information about checkoff-funded efforts, visit www.beefboard.org.

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