It’s not a good sign when a government agency fights brand innovation. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case as the US Department of Agriculture tries to block a US beef producer from bringing to market a higher quality brand of beef.
The headline of the AP story tells it like it is: US government fights to keep meatpackers from testing all slaughtered cattle for mad cow.
The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.
The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.
In March a federal judge ruled that Creekstone had the right to perform additional mad cow testing, effective June 1. The Bush administration and the USDA have appealed that ruling, preventing Creekstone from doing the testing at this time.
Adding value to the brand
Yes, Creekstone Farms wants to add value to its brand by implementing a testing program to provide increased assurance to customers that its meat products are disease free. It would be the first meat producer in the US to do so.
Creekstone specializes in corn-fed, hormone-free Angus beef. Its proposed testing is consistent with the comprehensive quality programs that already underlie its brand approach. The terms “premium” and “quality” are a key part of the Creekstone brand. Creekstone’s actions indicate that it takes these terms seriously—that they’re much more than packaging fluff.
Building brand quality
Creekstone does not want to invent new tests for mad cow disease (technically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE). It simply wants to apply the current highly restricted federal tests for BSE to its lines of beef products, so it can brand its beef as tested.
Here is Creekstone’s reply to the USDA:
In refusing to allow Creekstone Farms to respond to its customers’ preference for beef from animals that have been tested for BSE, the USDA is doggedly pursuing a course that scientists, consumer groups, trade associations and business, and members of Congress regard as a bad policy. While Creekstone Farms has taken a lead role in this effort, it is not alone in believing that the government should not prevent private companies from voluntarily testing cattle for BSE.
Raising the brand bar
Creekstone’s battle with the USDA is part of a larger struggle of innovative brands to create new markets by raising the brand bar. Often pitted against such brand innovation initiatives are larger corporations with a vested interest in the status quo, their lobbying groups, and federal agencies or parties influenced by those groups. Some deeper background on the Creekstone saga is here.
Raising the brand bar is one of the remaining innovation avenues open to US firms globally, enabling them to compete effectively in world markets through brand value delivered. This is a natural strength of US companies, arising in large part from an individualistic, entrepreneurial drive to pack more customer focus, value and quality into new products and services. Smaller companies such as Creekstone often lead in these initiatives.
Creekstone as a value-based brand
As a value-based brand, Creekstone has a sharp focus on quality. Here is a snippet from it’s full-page Quality Commitment:
What makes Creekstone Farms Premium Black Angus Beef superior? It’s our commitment to Quality. From the cattle we procure all the way through to our state of the art processing, we are committed to producing the highest quality beef in America.
- USDA Certification
- Verifiable Black Angus Genetics
- Humane Animal Treatment
- High Quality Corn-Based Feed
- State Of The Art Processing
- Two USDA Certified Beef Programs – Premium and Natural
Or lowering the brand bar
If the USDA (as currently directed by the Bush administration) is successful in lowering the brand bar in agricultural products, what’s to prevent similar government actions from legislating mediocrity in other business sectors, from automobiles to aircraft to computers? What discriminating customer (or foreign country) would want American products then?
When America loses brand leadership, what’s left?