Recent increases in the demand for beef and beef products will continue if producers satisfy consumers in terms of quality, price and convenience, according to a national beef marketing expert.

Wayne D. Purcell, alumni distinguished professor of agricultural and applied economics at Virginia Tech University, will be one of the featured speakers at the 50th Beef Cattle Short Course presented by the University of Florida's department of animal sciences May 2-4 in Gainesville.

Purcell said large firms need to continue to support new product development, which has only been seen in the past three years, if the industry wants to maintain an increase in beef demand that began in 1997.

“From 1980 through 1997 we essentially saw a 50 percent cumulative decline in beef demand. Since 1997, we have turned back up about seven percentage points, so we are about a seventh of the way back up the hill,” Purcell said.

“But if we don't stimulate new product development and a realignment of what we offer with what consumers want, we have no guarantee this improvement is going to continue,” he added. “Also, the competition from pork and poultry is going to be even more intense.”

Purcell and other leading national experts on all aspects of the beef cattle industry will tell short course participants their version of the industry's future. Bill Kunkle, a professor with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and one of the course planners, said this year's golden anniversary short course will highlight information that will be helpful to Florida's cattle industry.

“One thing we tried to emphasize this year was the fact that we've accomplished a lot in the past and are looking toward a lot of changes in the future,” Kunkle said. “We have brought in speakers from around the nation to highlight emerging trends and technologies in this industry.”

UF's Kunkle said one of the goals of the short course is to highlight new methods that will help the beef cattle producer.

Registration for the conference is $85 if received by April 16, or $110 after that date. For more information, call (352) 392-5930.