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Correcting the history of the “Eat Beef” license plate

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
June 25, 2013

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Back in March, I told you about the Beef license plate…you know the one simply branded BEEF in big, bold, capital letters?

Well, it turns out I got it wrong…they didn’t start in Oklahoma. Recently, the head of the Kansas Livestock Association wrote to me, arguing they started them far earlier. As in 1956. And Dee Likes, the head of the KLA, provided the proof. So I asked him to join me to correct the record.

“Well the Kansas Livestock Association began using the Eat Beef slogan and license tags clear back in the mid-1950’s. We have documentation of that of course.

“We have copies of displays from the Kansas Stockman Magazine, which we publish, clear back to 1956 displaying the license tags that our members could order from us with that slogan, and even prior to that, clear back in the 1930’s, KLA was putting up signs Eat Beef for Good Health.

“Curiously, in those days, they would put them along the railroad track, for train passengers to see.”


“Well it gives livestock producers and frankly, all rural people who identify with our industry, a chance to show their support and show their culture and where they hook in with American society, and they’re proud of that.”

A lot of what Dee told me echoes what I heard from Heather Buckmaster at the Oklahoma Beef Council: these plates are popular.

“We’ve seen these tags in pictures all over the world that people have sent to us: in the windows of restaurants of China and Europe, literally in amazing places, on the front of combat vehicles in the Middle East. It’s really, really heartening and pleasing to see.”

“We have that term copyrighted at the national level, but we freely let our sister and brother organizations in other states and colleges and universities and young people’s groups use that.”

On whether it’s the same tag design:

“It’s awfully close. We don’t have any of the actual tags from 1956, only the pictures, but it’s awfully, awfully close.

“We’ve changed it a little bit to where instead of just a rectangle, it’s now a rectangle with that upper right corner kinda zig zagged off to show the actual geographical shape of the state of Kansas. That’s about the only change in all this time.”

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