Supporters and opponents of country of origin labeling (COOL) have been deeply divided ever since the idea of COOL emerged in the late 1990s. That divide continues to play out not just in the country but in the corridors of Congress.
The U.S. cattle feeding industry has depended for years on Mexican feeder cattle to help fill its pens. Annual imports have averaged about one million head, although they have fluctuated dramatically at times, in large part due to drought. That’s why 2011 and 2012 saw more than 1.
It needed to. For years it had rested on the premise that beef was “King” and Americans would continue to gobble it up. But, beef demand began to decline because beef was too fatty and inconsistent in its eating quality. Fortunately, the industry responded to the alarm bells, although it took nearly 20 years to arrest that declining demand.
How many of you have been inside the boxed storage facility of a large fed beef processing plant? If you haven’t, it’s well worth a visit because these facilities tell you a lot about the current state of the beef industry and its future direction..
The shrinking U.S. cattle herd has claimed another victim. Cow processor Martin’s Abattoir & Wholesale Meats in North Carolina ceased operations mid-September after 58 years in business. It’s the third cow processor to close in the past two years.
The Zilmax story is still unfolding. But years from now, it should be taught as a cautionary tale of how the best intentions can go awry. Merck Animal Health, which makes the feed supplement, had spent 30 years developing and testing the product.
The numbers never did add up for Northern Beef Packers (NBP) in Aberdeen, SD. Around the time that plans for its new plant were getting off the ground, the national cattle herd had completed three years of extremely modest expansion and then returned to contraction mode.
The beef industry promotes the use of what it calls new “technologies” to increase productivity and help producers make more money. Producing more pounds per head makes economic sense, especially as the U.S. cattle herd continues to shrink.
One weekend does not make a market. But the beef industry was hoping for a beef sales bonanza over the Memorial Day holiday. Alas, Mother Nature decided to rain on the beef parade. Instead of warm, sunny weather that would have encouraged more grilling, it was wet and cool in parts of the Midwest and Northeast.
Weather extremes have played a huge role in American life from the time the republic was founded. From earthquakes to hurricanes or tornadoes, cities and towns from coast to coast have felt the full force of nature and been reshaped by it. Weather has also been a huge influence in shaping agriculture and modern food production.
Batista’s optimism, and that of his family, transformed JBS from being a mid-sized beef processor in Brazil to being the world’s largest meat and poultry company. The company now harvests every commercial species of animal, including goats. Its global revenue in 2012 was 76 billion reais (roughly $38 billion), up 22.
I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a Prime rib dinner with Scott George and J.D Alexander, respectively the incoming and outgoing presidents of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). We were attending the 10th annual Alberta Beef Industry Conference held at the majestic Banff Springs Hotel in the Canadian Rockies.
Plainview was the sixth largest plant on the Southern Plains and its idling causes 4,650 head of daily slaughter capacity to be lost to cattle feeders. But the market grossly over-reacted and Plainview’s absence will have little impact on Southern Plains’ live cattle prices this year.
It’s startling to realize that the U.S. has lost 14.5 million cattle since 1996. The beef industry has adjusted to the loss of these millions of cattle, notably by improving productivity per animal, better red meat yields and record heavy carcass weights for steers and heifers.
The U.S. faces a beef “deficit” in the coming year that will challenge every sector of the beef industry. I use the term “deficit” in that per capita beef consumption will decline relative to how much beef people would like to eat. USDA’s latest forecast is for available beef supplies in 2013 to be 54.
Much has already been written about the impact of the 2010-2011 Texas/Oklahoma-based drought and this year’s most widespread drought in 59-plus years. Drought has forced cow/calf operators to cull cows, retain fewer heifers than expected, and thus reduce their herds for another year.
When I first started w r i t i n g about the beef industry 25 years ago, it was fashionable for cattle producers to regard beef processors as “the enemy.” They decried packers for their perceived market power and that they made millions of dollars per year.
Beef producers face the most widespread drought in their lifetimes. This means their drought management options are fewer than in years when droughts might have been just as severe but much more local. Take the historic Texas-Oklahoma drought that finally broke this spring.
We may be a ground beef nation but steaks still put the sizzle in wholesale beef prices and underpin fed cattle prices. That’s what occurred this spring, as beef cutout values responded to aggressive retail featuring of steak items for the Memorial Day weekend and throughout June.