Consumer demand for beef jumped sharply in 2004, with the Beef Demand Index climbing 7.74 percent compared to 2003 and more than 25 percent since reversing its 20-year decline in 1998, Cattlemen's Beef Board Chairman Nelson Curry announced at the Cattle Industry Annual Convention.

"We knew it was a strong year for beef but these preliminary numbers for the demand index really surpass even our most optimistic expectations," said Curry, a cattleman from Paris, Ky. "With this continued strength, we've far exceeded the goal of the beef industry's Long Range Plan to increase demand by 6 percent between 2000 and year-end 2004, with demand during that period up an astonishing 17.65 percent."

Cattle-Fax estimates that the increase in demand since 1998 has added about $22/cwt to the price of fed cattle. That means fed cattle that averaged $84.50/cwt in 2004 would have sold for more like $62.50/cwt if not for the tremendous increase in demand.

Curry said he is particularly pleased with the demand results in light of all the challenges that the beef industry faced in 2004 - beginning the year just days after a single case of BSE was found in the United States. Further, he said, it points up the value of being able to provide accurate, science-based information about the safety of the U. S. beef supply.

"Producers should be proud of what they've been able to accomplish in the face of so many challenges," Curry said. "If we can continue to build demand, we will be better off as cattlemen than we would be if demand were not growing - regardless of other market forces that are outside the realm of the checkoff mandate."

The Beef Demand Index is calculated based on a series of formulas developed and monitored by Dr. Wayne Purcell, director of the Research Institute on Livestock Pricing through Virginia Tech University 's department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. The index reflects several specific factors, including per capita consumption and consumer spending for beef.

Source: Association Release