Creating a Geographically Linked Brand for High-Quality Beef: A Case Study

Bruce A. Babcock, Dermot J. Hayes, John D. Lawrence, Roxanne Clemens
August 2007  [07-MBP 13]

Worldwide, a segment of consumers can afford to pay substantial price premiums for very high quality agricultural products with attributes those consumers value. At the same time, many U.S. farmers are producing these high-quality products but are not using market mechanisms that allow them to take fullest advantage of price premiums. This paper describes a pilot program developed to commercialize an origin-based collective brand for very high quality beef. We hypothesize that, if successful, the program would create potential for cattle producers to take fuller advantage of price premiums often captured elsewhere in the marketing channel. Specifically, the pilot program analyzed two mechanisms for differentiating and marketing very high quality beef: a certification mark (a type of U.S. trademark that links products to their geographic origin) and a USDA Process Verification Program (a federal program that allows producers to provide documented assurances to their customers that a stated set of minimum production standards are met). This paper describes how we identified target markets, defined product specifications and determined potential supply, protected property rights using the U.S. trademark system, prepared documentation for a USDA process verification program, and attempted to commercialize Iowa-80 Beef. We also discuss the costs and feasibility of small firms or producer groups obtaining and maintaining a certification mark and a process verification program. Finally, we discuss the challenges and lessons learned from attempting to brand and commercialize very high quality beef.

Keywords: certification mark, collective brands, consumer assurance, geographic origin, process verification.

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