January 24, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

 As the beef industry expands and advances, consumers are demanding more product choices and information about the food they eat. The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is actively training Homemaker club leaders to do just that.

Homemaker leaders in the Bluegrass Area recently took part in a program to learn about new beef cuts, industry trends, new products and consumer attitudes. The ladies will take the knowledge back to their clubs.

Clark Co. Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences Laura Stephenson gets help from her son William preparing roast samples.

"The main underlying point of this whole lesson is that producers are trying to increase their beef quality through best management practices and quality awareness," said Laura Stephenson, Clark County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. "We also want to get across that the consumers themselves are also responsible for knowing their goals as far as buying beef and then learning the food preparation techniques to use with the products they buy."

Homemaker leaders took part in a sample consumer attitude survey and taste panel of three new beef products. They compared flavor, tenderness, juiciness and marbling of each product before the product's name was revealed.

Stephenson taught the leaders how to determine what motivates consumers by reading their survey results. Some products are geared toward consumers who value taste, while other products are geared toward those who value nutrition or cost.

The training was the first of two parts. The second phase will take place in a couple months and leaders will come back to learn cooking techniques for different products and cuts of beef.

"I think the lack of knowledge actually is what keeps consumer's from purchasing beef," said Diana Doggett, Fayette County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. "Maybe they had a failure and they aren't sure what they did wrong cooking it. We just want to take the different new cuts and products and give them the knowledge they need to cook them successfully, so they won't be afraid to buy again."

The number of new products available surprised Mary Hemken, leader of the Rodes Addition Homemaker Club.

"Learning about the cuts of meat was helpful and also knowing about new products," she said. "We are an older group, so learning about the products that come in smaller sizes and faster cooking times is helpful to us. Smaller sizes mean you don't have a huge roast leftover that you don't know what to do with."

Stephenson said the educational program also is being used for producer groups to let them know about current consumer attitudes.

"Many times producers don't purchase beef at the grocery store or the market," she said. "They already have it in their freezers, so they don't know what the consumer's actually asking for."

A grant from the Kentucky Cattlemen's Association made the training program and curriculum possible. For information about the cooking school or consumer beef quality awareness programs in your area, contact your local Extension office.


Diana Doggett  859-257-5582