Friday, March 15, 2013

The Beef Industry Is Getting Screwed Again!

Beef cattle production represents the largest single segment of American agriculture.

In fact, the U.S. beef industry is made up of more than 1 million businesses, farms and ranches. And yes, there are more than 800,000 ranchers and cattle producers in the United States.

In 2007, the production of meat animals was responsible for $66 billion in added value to the U.S. economy.

According the Economic Research Service, farming is a family affair. It found that 98% of U.S. farms in 2007 were still family farms. The typical herd size averages 40 head of cattle, but herds with more than 100 head of cattle produce most beef in the United States.

Yes, it is a fact that in 2007, there were 97 million cattle in the United States. That is why total beef production in 2007 was 26.4 billion pounds of beef.

Beef production per cow has increased from about 400 pounds in the mid-1960s to 585 pounds in 2005 meaning more business opportunities for producers and cost savings for consumers.

America’s farming and ranching families love the land and what they do. They're committed to honesty, integrity and hard work as they make sure the the beef you eat is high quality top choice beef.

From pastures to your plate, it is their job to raise the best cattle for you.

The farmers and ranchers who raise cattle for beef face many of the same, if not more, unpredictable and forceful influences that affect most businesses.

From changing product demand, rising input costs and market fluctuation to weather patterns and even consumer nutrition and lifestyle trends, farmers and ranchers must balance a long list of variables in order to be successful.

Simply put, by raising cattle for beef, cattlemen transform grass and grain into a nutritious product that meets consumer demand.

“We create both food and economic activity by sustainably harvesting those resources,” says Gregg Doud, chief economist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).

The U.S. beef supply chain is a complex partnership among a variety of independent and mostly family-owned businesses.

It begins with seed-stock operators selling breeding stock to cow-calf operations where calves are born and weaned.

All beef cattle spend their lives grazing on pasture before heading to a feedyard, also known as a feedlot, to be “finished” on a balanced, grain- and forage-based diet.

Cattle farmers and ranchers may be involved in one or several steps of this process, depending on their individual business model.

To reach the consumer in the form of a steak, roast or other beef cut, beef is processed at packing plants and distributed from those facilities through supermarket and restaurant channels or may be exported to other countries.

Increasing Costs of Raising Beef

The 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Census found that beef cattle farms and
ranches spent an average of $79,752 per operation to raise beef cattle during 2007, an increase of $21,000 or 37 percent, from 2002.

1 The five largest expenses for cattle farmers and ranchers were purchases of livestock, feed, suppliers and repairs, labor and interest expenses.

The steepest cost increases were for feed (up 45 percent) and livestock (up 31 percent).

Total production expenses on all cattle farms increased between 2002 to 2007.

A closer look at these factors demonstrates how farmers and ranchers manage and respond to the many challenges involved with running any business, as well as some that are unique to the beef industry.

Cattle producers, farmers and ranchers, who are they:

•  97 percent of all beef cattle operations are family-owned.
•  54 percent of U.S. cattle farms and ranches have been in the same family for three generations or more.
•  Raising cattle for beef is the largest single segment of American agriculture.
•  USDA estimates there were 742,000 beef cattle operations in 2010.
•  There are more than 93 million head of beef cattle of various breeds in the united states.
•  The average age of a U.S. cattle farmer or rancher is 61 years old.
•  More than 10 percent of cattle farmers and ranchers in the united states are women.

The Beef Industry's Problems Comes From Government Over-Regulation

On March 12th, 2013, a report on Fox News (website), "Cattle (Industry) Producers: USDA meat-labeling rules stir backlash" demonstrated the battle that Beef Producers face.

It was reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is facing a backlash from small livestock producers and others over its move to tighten meat-labeling regulations, which would force them to separate animals based on where they were born, raised and slaughtered.

The step is being billed as a way to bring the U.S. into compliance with World Trade Organization agreements, but there are a growing number in the industry who argue it will alienate the country’s trading partners and force small American meat farms out of business.

“Only the government could take a costly, cumbersome rule like mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and make it worse even as it claims to ‘fix it,’’ said American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle.

Boyle believes the proposed rule will make the current requirements even more expensive, onerous and disruptive.

The Department of Agriculture recently proposed the new rule for labeling muscle cuts of meat. That means beef, veal, lamb, pork, goat and chicken -- which are now labeled as simply a product of one country or more -- will have to include additional details including where each animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

The new labeling regulations would force thousands of meat processors and retailers to change the way they label products. The USDA estimates the initial cost would range between $17 million and $48 million.

The USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service began working on a rule change after the U.S. partially lost a WTO appeal in 2012.

“The USDA expects that these changes will improve the overall operation of the program and also bring the current mandatory (country of origin labeling) requirements into compliance with the U.S. international trade obligations," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

Of course, to no one's surprise, The National Farmers Union praised the rule change as an “excellent response.”

“By requiring further clarity in labels and stronger record-keeping, the set of rules released are a win-win for farmers, ranchers and consumers,” NFU President Roger Johnson said.

But not everyone agrees, including officials on the northern side of the border with whom the U.S. does considerable business.

“The proposed changes will increase the discrimination against exports of cattle and hogs from Canada and increase damages to Canadian industry,” Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a statement.

Many U.S. meat-packing plants, especially those near the U.S.-Canada border, have stopped accepting Canadian livestock or bought less due to the increased costs of segregating animals by domestic and foreign origin.

U.S. companies that have been big buyers of Canadian animals and would be the most affected by the rule change are Tyson Foods, Cargill Inc. and Smithfield Foods.

The United States has until May 23 to redesign its country-of-origin rules to satisfy the WTO ruling.

The USDA is encouraging public feedback and has a section of their site dedicated to hearing what the public says. After the comment period for the proposed rule closes on April 11, the USDA will review all comments before proceeding with a final rule.

I'm going on there and asking why do we Americans even allow the WTO to dictate their "rulings" to us.

I understand agreements, but since at present Americans don't have a White House that will fight for American interests or on-behalf of Cattle Producers, why are we even respecting the wishes of the WTO when the effects of such demands may adversely effect American farming and ranching families?

Both Canada and Mexico successfully argued the 2008 labeling law discriminated against their livestock and meat exports.

But as I said, Americans have no one who will argue our case. Proof of this - the Obama administration said it would comply with the trade ruling.

In a statement late Friday, Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said his government was "extremely disappointed" with the U.S. proposal.

"We do not believe that the proposed changes will bring the United States into compliance with its WTO obligations," Ritz said.

Country of origin labels, referred to as COOL, became mandatory in March 2009 after years of debate.

Liberal farm and consumer groups said the labels would help shoppers make informed decisions, but meat packers and livestock producers termed the labels a costly paperwork headache.

A cost that may end generations of family businesses.

Story by Tom Correa


  1. china will not trade with us unless they can trace the animal to ranch of origin. all we ask for is country of origin big packers don't want this simply so they can control the market to there liking with imported beef knowing the american public would pick usa born and raised beef.

  2. I think Glenn is right. We cannot "meat" the needs of foreign countries when it comes to beef unless we are willing to trace it back to the origins of its ranch. Haha. Get it? Meat? Forgive me, that was a bad cow pun. Does this still mean I don't get a burger? Ah, come on, Tom, help me out, will ya? haha.


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