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Feeding demand for ground beef

TA-FC ClipBoard: So what does the world need now that we know about the high demand for ground cow beef? Lotza ground plant round!!

Feeding the demand for ground beef

Most U.S. beef imports go toward feeding the nation’s massive appetite for ground beef.

Wes Ishmael | Jul 13, 2020

Ground beef is such a staple in American diets and culture that it can be easy to overlook its role in the bigger picture of U.S. beef production and marketing.

U.S. beef consumption last year was 58 pounds per capita, according to Derrell Peel, Extension livestock marketing specialist at Oklahoma State University. Of that, ground beef represented about 26 pounds, or about 45% of total domestic beef consumption.

In some ways, ground beef is to the overall beef complex what the stocker business is to the overall cattle business for both consumers and producers. Both aggregate related but diverse raw material and blend them into a more homogenous product of greater value. Both also serve as a shock absorber of sorts, leveling out the seasonal ebb and flow of supplies, so the product is available year-round.

When it comes to beef trim, for example, Peel notes that peak steer slaughter usually occurs from May to late June. Peak fed heifer and beef cow slaughter typically peak in the fall. Most dairy cow slaughter occurs toward the first and last quarters. Bull slaughter — a miniscule contributor to total lean trim volume — comes mostly in the summer.

Plus, ground beef production, similar to the stocker sector, contributes to maintaining relative price relationships because of the ability to warehouse product and use products of various kinds.

“Ground beef is one of the major ways the entire beef complex maintains balance,” Peel says.

There’s nothing simple about it, though. Ground beef represents a complex production system within the hypercomplex cattle and beef industries.

Ground beef 101

For purposes here, figure that fed cattle produce 55% lean beef trim. That’s lots fatter than the 75%-to-80%-and-higher lean ground beef consumers typically see. So, you blend the fatter trim with a higher proportion of leaner trim that comes from slaughter cows and imported beef.

Similar to figuring a least-cost ration for cattle, Peel explains those in the meat business mix and match a menu of lean sources to arrive at a specific percentage lean ground beef product for the lowest possible price.

“The most economical formulation for ground beef will change with changes in relative prices, market conditions and product demands,” Peel says.

Lean trim sources on any given day range from fresh 85% lean trimmings to imported 90% lean trimmings to the bottom round.

To a degree, Peel says ground beef production also mirrors the dual, specialized supply chains that characterize the overall industry.

Food service — restaurants, schools, institutions and the like — account for about 54% of total food expenditures in the U.S., according to Peel. Beef products flowing through this chain are often bulk- packaged and then further processed for portion control. Ground beef in this sector uses domestic fat trim, along with fresh and frozen domestic and imported lean beef trim.

Conversely, retail grocery represents about 46% of total U.S. food expenditures. Much of the beef in this supply chain arrives at retailers in case-ready packaging, ready for labeling. Ground beef here is comprised mostly of domestic, fresh lean and fat beef trim.

Imports key to U.S. ground beef

Over the years Peel hears a common question: Why do we import beef? Don’t we produce enough here at home?

“We produce plenty of beef, but it’s not in the right proportion of products relative to our demands in the market,” Peel says. “To maximize value in the industry, we support our ground beef market with imported lean beef trim.”

Then Peel walks the questioner through some numbers.

First, the Livestock Marketing Information Center estimates total beef trim used in the U.S. last year at 8.5 billion pounds (see graphic). Of that, 27% (2.3 billion pounds) was from domestic beef and dairy cows; another 26% (2.2 billion pounds) was imported trim.

Livestock Marketing Information Center

Incidentally, Peel says about 72% of all beef imported to the U.S. goes toward domestic ground beef production. He explains about half of U.S. beef imports last year came from Australia and Canada, followed by Mexico, New Zealand and Brazil.

“Roughly, it takes the trim of one cow to add to the trim of one fed animal. We slaughtered 6.4 million cows in the U.S. last year, and 26 million fed steers and heifers,” he says. “You begin to see the challenge right away

“We would have to slaughter about twice as many cull cows in the United States to replace the imported trim and still make everything balance with this huge volume of fatty trim that we produce in the fed cattle industry.”

There are options, all of which come at higher cost and provide less value.

For instance, Peel says the U.S. could decrease ground beef production by about 45%. As mentioned, domestic consumers currently demand 45% of their beef consumption as ground beef. Plus, the fatter fed cattle trim currently used in ground beef production would have to find a new, lower-value home in the form of such things as tallow and pet food.

The U.S. could maintain current levels of ground beef production by utilizing more muscle cuts, which have more value in other markets.

You could also run 10% to 15% of the yearlings as range beef and market them for values similar to cull cows.

“All of those alternatives would result in lower value to the U.S. cattle industry,” Peel explains. “The way markets work, we are increasing total value to the industry by sourcing lean where we can get it cheaper to meet the needs of that market, while letting other products that could be used as a source of lean go into other markets where they have a higher value.”

The United States is a net beef exporter on a value basis. This year, for example, the latest quarterly Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade from USDA’s Economic Research Service projects beef and veal exports at $7.2 billion, with beef and veal imports of $6.1 billion.

“Adjustments in export and import flows collectively serve to smooth out total volumes of beef available for U.S. consumers,” says Glynn Tonsor, agricultural economist at Kansas State University, in Overview of U.S. Beef Production, Export, Import and Domestic Consumption Trends: 2003-2019.

Total U.S. beef production last year was 27.23 billion pounds. Of that, Tonsor says 3.02 million pounds of beef were exported, 3.06 million pounds of beef were imported. Total domestic beef disappearance was 27.28 billion pounds, which corresponded to 57.97 pounds per person, given U.S. population growth.

“Therefore, 11.10% of total U.S. beef production in 2019 was exported, and 11.21% of total U.S. beef disappearance was sourced from imports,” Tonsor explains. “There is a -0.53 correlation between annual export and import flows consistent with imports increasing when exports decline, and vice versa.”

“While this may be surprising, this synergistic relationship reflects differences in products involved, the role of imported products as inputs (commonly for ground beef production) into U.S. domestic consumption markets, and value differences associated with these volume flows,” Tonsor writes.

Source: Feeding demand for ground beef

TA-FC ClipBoard: So what does the world need now that we know about the high demand for ground cow beef? Lotza ground plant round!!






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New TV show “Tough As Nails” celebrates everyday Americans

TA-FC ClipBoard: Let’s make it clear here that the agriculture they’re talking about is the ‘raising for slaughter industry’, and making the cattle industry cool and sexy once again.

“Witnessing first hand how food is grown? Well, animals aren’t food and they’re not plants, so they’re not grown like the cattle industry wants the world to once again believe. They’re raised from before birth to slaughter maturity.

Once that genie got out of the bottle and once slaughterhouse observational tours were banned, everybody knew that what went on inside was anything but cool and sexy – except if you’re a pervert and get off on watching animals get dismembered while listening to their screams.

And once rogue undercover reporters took the videos and circulated them, the world knew for sure that there was no love happening behind those doors in those stalls.

“…toilet paper, hand sanitizer, meats, dairy, eggs and other products we can’t live without come from…” No mention of plants here.

“Raising the livestock you love”? Who said anything about loving livestock? Isn’t it deadstock that people love? If they loved livestock they wouldn’t be able to kill the babies they raised for your plate.

So now “hard-working Americans” can be equated with slavery, sordid and deadly. No slave leaves alive. The reason these slave masters and killers keep the country running is because we built our economy on the slavery and slaughtering of innocent animals.

“Callouses on the hands, and tough as nails”, but you left out the horror. You left out the holocaust.

They say they don’t do it for the money. Geez. Serial killers don’t kill for the money either.

I’m all for country. Just minus the slaughter part. Grow plants. There’s no good coming from raising animals for slaughter. It’s not cool, sexy or worthy work.

“…this country’s essential workers: real people in real life who are real tough…”. Yeah, it takes a real person who has a real life who is real tough to raise and kill an innocent cow.


This all-new reality competition squares off everyday Americans who get their hands dirty while working long, hard hours to keep the country running.

Amanda Radke | Jul 31, 2020

Does agriculture have a public relations problem?

Perception of who we are in agriculture has been a constant struggle we have faced as more consumers move away from rural communities in favor of urban life.

This problem has escalated in recent years for a multitude of reasons — one, greater efficiencies in the industry have resulted in fewer hands involved in the work of putting food on the table; two, an abundance of food at the grocery stores means people never have to worry about where their next meal will come from; and three, instead of people being able to witness first-hand how food is grown, information derived from social media, activists, politicians and Hollywood has resulted in more confusion than ever before.

As a result, it’s been difficult to find our common ground and our shared values. I’ve always believed, however, if we could sit down with our counterparts, we would find we care about the same things when it comes to purchasing food at the grocery store to feed our families — safety, nutrition, taste, affordability, environment and animal welfare.

Even knowing we share these commonalities, there’s still a great deal of work to be done to make agriculture cool and sexy once again.

The one silver lining of the pandemic has been the “essential workers,” those who provide the goods and services we need to function in our everyday lives, are in the spotlight. All of a sudden, we care more about where our toilet paper, hand sanitizer, meats, dairy, eggs and other products we can’t live without come from. There’s a stronger push to get to know the people behind the products, and the opportunities are great if we can take advantage of this open window to share our stories.

However, in the current political climate, you may want to simply go off the grid, ignore the craziness of the outside world, shut off the mainstream media and just keep working the land and raising the livestock you love.

I totally get it, and I go back and forth from feeling like I need to reach out to our consumers to thinking it’s time for me to shut down and hide away from the world for a bit.

If you need a distraction for a moment, may I suggest a television show that celebrates the hard-working Americans who provide the food, fiber and energy to support our country and the world.

CBS has a new show called, “Tough As Nails,” and a friend alerted me to this really awesome series. This all-new reality competition squares off everyday Americans who get their hands dirty while working long, hard hours to keep the country running. In season one, we get to meet a welder, firefighter, farmer, roofer and Marine Corps veteran, just to name a few.

According to CBS, “These competitors, who consider the calluses on their hands a badge of honor, will be tested for their strength, endurance, life skills, and, most importantly, mental toughness in challenges that take place at real-world job sites.

“One competitor will be crowned champion, but nobody will go home. Even after they “punch out” of the individual competition, they will have the opportunity to win additional prizes in the team competitions that continue throughout the season,” CBS said.

“‘I was inspired to create this show almost a decade ago because of my working-class family of farmers, gold miners, builders and coal miners,” said host Phil Keoghan. ‘I’m proud of my family and wanted to shine a light on people who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty to do a hard day’s work. Now, more than ever, it is important for all of us to recognize this country’s essential workers: real people in real life who are real tough.’”

Ohio farmer, Melissa Burns, represents agriculture well in the series.

She describes her typical day on the farm, “Every day is different. My day starts anywhere between 3:00 – 4:00 AM. House chores get completed, then depending on weather and the season you will find me in the fields or at the feed mill. We work before the sun comes up and will not stop until after dark or all the work is complete for that day.”

When asked what makes her tough as nails, Burns said, “Getting up every day and putting in the work. We don’t do it for the money. We don’t do it for anyone but ourselves. I am a tough farmer, a tough female farmer!”

It’s shows like this that are a win-win because it brings rural America and those who work in these important fields to the forefront. When it comes to a public relations campaign for the food, fiber and energy industries, this one gets the job done. Check it out and let me know what you think!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

Source: New TV show “Tough As Nails” celebrates everyday Americans


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