The South African beef industry, like many other South African supply chains, is challenged by the increased complexity and demand brought about by globalization, increased volumes and competition, shortage of skilled staff and pressures to meet changing customer needs. The power has shifted from the supply side to the consumer. The consumer has been empowered by greater knowledge. Consumer needs are changing. A combination of these two facts implies that not only the retailer, but also the supply chain as a whole must make sure that it is aligned to deliver customer value, in order to ensure sustainable competitiveness and survival, manage risks and ensure acceptable returns. Competition today is based on competing supply chains. The focus of this study is to define the South African consumer and their needs, so that the beef industry and in particular the supply chain participants, are able to identify opportunities to improve the delivery of customer value. This study attempts to determine the extent to which the South African consumer needs and demands regarding beef have changed, and whether the beef value chain is positioned to meet these changes. The supply chain concept, market orientation, meat quality and consumer food trends form the theoretical framework of this study; an industry analysis provides the context in which agri-businesses function; a network analysis provides a better understanding of the roles and value-adding activities that are delivered by chain participants; and an analysis of the South African consumer establishes the composition of the market, consumer needs and disposable income issues that are critical to finding the optimal solution that is sustainable enough to meet the changing environment. Although the industry has a good status, good management practices can further increase consumer confidence in beef.