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U.S. beef industry sees a breakdown in connectivity

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Laramie – Helping consumers to understand the beef industry is vital to U.S. agriculture, commented National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Scott George at the 2013 AgriFuture Conference on Oct. 8-10, but he also noted, “It is also important that we talk to people in the industry to help them understand their connectedness.”

In the U.S., George noted that it is important to recognize how each segment of the industry relates and how to best represent beef as a result.

“I know a lot of guys who say they raise cattle,” said George. “They don’t market beef. They market their cattle. After they sell it, they are done and feel like that is the end of their responsibility.”

However, George noted that mindset can be dangerous for the industry and must change.

“There is a huge connectivity in the beef industry,” he explained. “It doesn’t matter what segment of the industry each producer is in – it affects everyone downstream.”

The solution, said George, is increasing education to increase promotion.

“We believe very strongly that we need to make sure we are marketing and addressing consumer concerns that the product we are using is safe,” he continued, “and we want consumers to understand our traditions and promote them.”

Educating beef producers is also important in the industry, and NCBA hopes to educate young producers in the Young Cattlemen’s Conference

In taking young cattlemen and cattlewomen to each step of the production process – form a cow/calf operation through the feedlot and packing plants, George noted, “It is fascinating to see how everything is done.”

“As cow/calf producers, we have a disconnect to the feedyard, slaughter plants and harvest facilities,” said George. “What comes away from visiting these facilities is that producers get the perspective that everything they do does impact the consumer.”

For example, George explained that animal care is very important through all segments of the industry.

“In the packaging plants, they talked about needing large magnets to detect any metal in the meat,” he said. “People used to get cattle out of the bush with shotguns, or bird hunters would get exuberant. People weren’t properly vaccinating, and the result was some metal in meat.”

For young producers, George noted that the realization of what is done in raising cattle drastically affects the industry further down the chain was eye-opening.

Economically, George also emphasized how connected the beef industry is.

“The feeder is a margin operator,” said George. “He buys cattle at a certain price and hopes to net a profit. Our feeders have been losing $100 to $300 a head because feed prices are out of this world.”

He asked, if feeders are unable to operate or fed cattle prices drop forcing them out of business, will cow/calf producers have a market for their product?

“If feeders were wiped out, the rest of us are out of the business as well,” said George.

“We have a connectivity that we have to make sure everyone understands,” he emphasized. “We are influenced by everything that is happening around us right now.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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