Beef month comes at a time of challenge

Dave Bergmeier

May is National Beef Month and governors across the High Plains region are touting the nutritional value and economic impact of livestock in their states.

Gov. Laura Kelly visited the Perry Ranch in Oskaloosa, Kansas, on May 10 to declare May as Kansas Beef Month.

"Every time I visit a farm or ranch, I’m reminded of the strength and resolve of the people who live and work in rural communities … I urge all citizens to support the largest sector of our state’s agricultural industry and join in the celebration to promote and celebrate beef in Kansas."

Producers also know that word-of-mouth tells a great story. It also is one Alison Van Eenennaam, Extension specialist, animal biotechnology and genomics at the University of California-Davis, notes that unfortunately facts are not always enough to alter narratives about animal agriculture that contain misinformation.

In a story written by Field Editor Kylene Scott in this week’s edition, Van Eenennaam said one of the one of the most noted examples involved the name “pink slime” used for lean, finely textured beef.

That is “a horrible sounding name for a process to add smaller pieces of lean meat to ground beef to produce a leaner product, which reduces food waste by utilizing as much meat from an animal as possible,” according to Van Eenennaam, who loves to tell the accurate story about what farmers and ranchers do to bring safe and nutritious beef to consumers.

Overall, there is much good news. Cattle have been cited as important animals in the debate over climate change. The taste of grilled hamburgers and steaks rewards the consumer and people around the world crave it, too.

Joe Schuele, vice president of communications for the U.S. Meat Export Federation, said as of earlier this spring it looks to be a rebound year for meat exports. Exports help drive industry expansion. About 14% of beef and 28% of pork are exported and the resulting profits go throughout the chain and to farmers and ranchers. Beef exports dipped to about $7.65 billion in 2019 after a record high of $8.35 billion in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 threw numbers but Schuele noted that it was possible for beef exports in 2021 to reach $8.5 billion. notes that in comparison to 1977, today’s beef farmers and ranchers produce the same amount of beef with 33% fewer cattle. That has come without significant investment in technology and stewardship practices that have included low-stress handling procedures. Farmers and ranchers have led the way in innovation throughout the chain in raising their cattle from calves to the final destination market.

Today’s environment is not without its challenges. Livestock producers consistently need fair and equitable prices that are in line with their costs and that is an elusive mark. The pandemic showed how quickly the entire supply chain can get bound up.

There is no easy challenge with corn prices hovering above $7 a bushel in many grain outlets. Drought has made it tough in certain regions of the country, which makes it tough for ranchers to expand their herds.

Compared to where we came from a year ago, hopefully the signs for a clearer crystal ball in profits throughout the chain will return. It all starts and ends with livestock producers who are in line with the thinking of consumers who love their product. That gives all of us a reason to celebrate beef this month.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].