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Research at cutting-edge of experimental economics
Dale Menkhaus specializes primarily in market economics and agricultural price analysis in the livestock and beef sectors.
In one of his first journal articles in 1976, and with a coauthor, he used regression techniques to analyze the impact of breed, sex, lot size, and weight on feeder calf prices.
"This work was the precursor to countless hedonic studies (reduces item being researched into its characteristics then estimates the value of each) and now published in literature that estimates premiums and discounts associated with various cattle attributes, such as breed and weight and associated with production practices, such as vaccination progams and third party certifications," says Associate Professor Roger Coupal, head of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.
He was a mentor to Kalyn Coatney, a graduate student, whose thesis dealt with the interdependencies of cattle characteristics on price in a hedonic system. Published in 1996, it was most recently cited in the literature in 2012 in the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
Another graduate student he mentored investigated the impact of the beef packer concentration on cattle prices. The thesis also resulted in a journal article. "That article was one of the first to address industrial organization issues in the beef sector and has been cited 35 times, most recently in a 2001 book chapter discussing the implications of industrial organization and food processing," says Coupal.
In the mid-1980s, Menkhaus and others in the college of agriculture addressed depressed cattle prices brought on by a declining demand for beef due to health concerns. They developed and tested grass-fed beef, later branded as Wyoming Lean Beef.
"How do you determine a product's acceptance and market price when such products are not on the market and there is no data for analysis?" asks Coupal. "Dale was one of the first in the agricultural economics discipline to use laboratory test market techniques to answer this important question."
Menkhaus and other members of the group, which included associate dean and director of UW Extension Glen Whipple, studied the potential value and consumer acceptance of beef offered in a vacuum skin package.
They used experimental auction techniques in several major U.S. cities to elicit values from beef consumers for this new type of packaging, says Coupal.
"This was the first study of its kind to use experimental economics to value food attributes or products, and this study firmly planted Dale as a leader in the agricultural economics discipline using experimental economic methods," notes Coupal.
Another mentoring of a graduate student drew the attention of a Russian delegation interested in learning about markets and pricing when Eastern Europe was moving from centrally planned economies to market- based economies.
The USDA Economic Research Service tapped his expertise to use experimental economics to assess the impacts of alternative policy mechanisms on market outcomes. "This work investigates how the structure of various subsidy mechanisms impact commodity and related factor markets," says Coupal.
Dale Menkhaus is recognized for his teaching in addition to research. Students in the college nominated him numerous times from 1985- 2011 for the College of Agriculture Outstanding Teacher Award. He received that in 1996 along with the US West Excellence in Education Award.
He has received Mortar Board's Top Prof six times.
"Dale has a reputation of challenging students yet even though his classes are considered by many to be difficult, students appreciate Dale's teaching style and friendly approach," says Roger Coupal, head of the department.
He provided mentorship to graduate students who have advanced to be faculty members at other universities, sit on the Council of Economic Advisers to the President of the United States, and leadership positions in the agricultural business sector.
"Dale's mentoring has also extended to faculty members in our department," notes Coupal. "When a faculty member has a question or issue regarding research, teaching, or administration, the first stop made is to Dale's office. His advice is always thoughtful and respectful."