U.S. Premium Beef (USPB) has been named the national winner of the 2000 Vision Award: Beef Innovator of the Year, by the National Cattlemen's Foundation, Inc.

The first ever award, sponsored by Bayer, was established to recognize beef industry leaders who have taken innovative steps to make their operation more profitable and efficient.

Nominees for the 2000 award were evaluated primarily on the basis of effective use of available production technology; impact on the cost of production, ingenuity in implementation; successful and innovative marketing; benefit to and impact on the beef industry; and optimum resource management.

Don Butler, chairman of the National Cattlemen's Foundation, said all the winners were "the cream of the crop," but that U.S. Premium Beef's ability to link the consumer and the producer earned them the award this year.

"They are really looking out in front and being visionary," Butler said.

U.S. Premium Beef is unique to the industry, because it is the only producer-owned closed marketing cooperative to own its own beef processing company. U.S. Premium Beef, Ltd. (USPB), owns Farmland National Beef Packing Company, the nation's fourth largest beef processor, in partnership with Farmland Industries. USPB also owns the Kansas City Steak Company, a high quality portion control company which serves foodservice and mail order markets.

U.S. Premium Beef is one of the beef industry's first large-scale programs to buy all of its cattle on a value-based marketing system and provide individual carcass data back to the cattle owner, at no cost. This information has helped USPB members make significant improvements in the quality of beef produced and sent to the USPB plants.

"We have moved away from thinking of cattle as a commodity to thinking about the value to the consumer as the end product," said Steven Hunt, chief executive officer for U.S. Premium Beef. "We are looking at selling meat and meals, rather than cattle."

Paul Loney, product manager for bovine biological, at Bayer Animal Health, said U.S. Premium Beef's innovative approach to doing business was the reason it was chosen for the award.

"We were looking for leaders that create positive change in the cattle industry," Loney said. "Things are changing quickly and these people are providing a positive impact on the industry. Because that is what we try to do with our products, that is what attracted us to this award."

U.S. Premium Beef represents National Cattlemen's Beef Association Division III, which covers Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

Six regional Vision Award winners were chosen from across the United States, and from those a national winner was chosen.

Other regional winners included: Louis "Mick" Colvin, Certified Angus Beef Program, in Wooster, OH; Ken Jordan, Jordan Cattle Auction, in San Saba, TX; Simplot Livestock Co., Grand View, ID; Warren Weibet, Decatur County Feed Yard, Oberlin, KS; and McElhaney Cattle Co., Welton, AZ.

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