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An extra 4 pounds of red meat a week-that's all U.S. beef producers are asking of consumers.

Faced with the highest supplies of red meat in a decade, the Beef Industry Council has staked $10 million in promotion dollars-and rejiggered its TV ad schedule-to support a retail-oriented program designed to keep the oversupply flowing through supermarkets.

About every 10 years, the nation's cattle production cycle peaks. Supplies go up and prices fall. When beef production becomes that unprofitable, cattlemen liquidate their herds.

The result, said Mary Adolf, VP-promotion for the beef council, is an additional 12 million to 25 million pounds of fresh beef on the market every week this summer.

"For that short window of time, our goal is to keep product moving through distribution channels," she said.

The council anticipated the boom in supplies and altered its traditional ad schedule, said Monica Eorgoff, director-advertising. "We took a hiatus in the spring months when we're usually on TV, in order to advertise all summer, when the extra beef was on the market," she said. A new flight of the council's "Beef-It's what's for dinner" spots broke June 13 on cable and network TV, and will run through Labor Day, supported by magazine ads.

In addition, the beef council moved its promotion dollars into a heavy retail program with three basic elements. First, the council set up a trade promotion effort, encouraging some 30,000 retailers to feature beef in their newspaper ads and circulars during June and July. In addition, the council is handing out hundreds of thousands of recipe books at supermarket meat cases.

Supporting the trade promotion, the council is steering consumers to buy more expensive beef with its first-ever coupon.

"This is the first time the beef industry has gone to the consumer with a purchase incentive," Ms. Adolf said.

The council is actually testing two coupon values: $1 off either 6 or 8 pounds of beef. A free standing insert will drop in six markets July 24 and 11 more markets Aug. 7.

The average amount of beef purchased on a supermarket visit is 4 pounds, Ms. Adolf said. That means the council is asking consumers to increase their average purchase by either 50% or 100%.

Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, handles the beef council's $35 million ad account and coordinated the summer promotion as well.

The 2-year-old "Beef-It's what's for dinner" campaign has increased in-home purchase intent by 14%, Ms. Eorgoff said.

"Not only are consumers buying more beef, but they're grading up to higher cuts," she said. "That was the whole reason for this campaign: Consumers knew lots of things they could do with ground beef but didn't know how to use all the other cuts out there."

Kate Fitzgerald coordinates Promotion Marketing News.

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