Trending topics Tyson CEO looks at beef industry trends
Denver, Colo. – With more than 700 cattle industry leaders gathered in Denver, Colo. for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Summer Business Meeting, heavy-hitting speakers looked at the biggest issues facing cattle producers today.
During the event, held Aug. 1-3, attendees heard from Tyson CEO Tom Hayes, who emphasized, “We’re all in the food business.”
Tyson represents the largest food company in the U.S., and the biggest part of their business is beef. Hayes noted a number of challenges on the horizon looking into the immediate future, but the industry also sees positive highlights looking forward.
Hayes commented that a continued focus on sustainability is essential for the beef industry.
“There is so much producers can do to make their operations more sustainable, and it’s a huge challenge,” he said, noting populations around the globe continue to grow, and people continue to seek high-quality proteins. “At the same time, we’re looking to produce more with the same or fewer resources.”
Tyson has made a commitment to reduce greenhouse cases by 30 percent by 2030.
“It’s important for us as an entire supply chain industry to stay focused on sustainability and stewardship of our resources,” he said.
However, sustainability can’t happen within the corporation alone and Hayes said the biggest thing producers can do to increase sustainability is to communicate with their producer partners.
“If we can engage in a place to have dialogue about production, we have influence,” he said. “We can talk to the customer, food service and everyone in between. They have a big voice, and we can work together to influence action.”
If everyone comes together to talk about supporting the industry, Hayes said, “We will be able to do it if we work together.”
“The biggest opportunity is the need for us to become more sustainable and focused on transparency,” Hayes commented.
When he attends consumer conferences, he frequently hears criticism of the meat industries because people are unaware of what happens within the industry.
The number one concern consumers voice is animal welfare, which is wide-ranging.
“I think that issue is more targeted toward the chicken industry,” he said, “but I would say secondarily, consumers ask what we can do to make incremental improvements with less resources to raise the same amount of product we are today.”
“This isn’t about solving any single problem right away,” Hayes added. “It’s about making incremental improvements.”
Additionally, Hayes sees premium quality beef as highly important.
“We believe that product innovation will also be important,” Hayes explained. “Premium programs have been an area of focus for us, and we’ve grown these programs year-over-year as consumers are looking for more premium cuts.”
“This is an area ranchers are tremendously helpful in,” he said. “We have many more high-quality black cattle than we have had before. If we can keep premium, we satisfy our most important piece, which is consumer demand.”
“If we don’t actively invest, we won’t learn where we need to make our systems sustainable and we won’t be able to accomplish the key things consumers are looking for,” Hayes commented.
For Tyson, Hayes said investments in their people have played an important role.
“Even though labor is difficult to find, our retention is important, and people like to work for Tyson because we focus on people and their safety,” he explained.
“Consumers want choices, and we believe choice is necessary for our business to thrive,” Hayes said, noting however, nomenclature like “clean beef” for lab-created products is defamatory and bad for business all around. “We’re looking forward for more direction and hoping USDA will regulate these products.”
He added that modifiers like “alternative” or “lab-grown” products provide a distinction on the products.
Regulation, he continued, should be within USDA’s realms because meat industries are seeking one set of rules.
“We don’t want to have different sets of rules, but we also think USDA has a better position to regulate lab-grown meats,” Hayes commented.
Because lab-grown meat is disrupting the beef industry, Hayes suggested producers need to continue to look ahead toward the next industry trend.
“Disparaging products is a poor way to approach fighting industry disrupters – and consumers see that, too,” he says. “A better approach is find a productive way to approach the business.”
Hayes added, “We also have to continuously promote, support and improve our industry and products. Continuously improving is a strong way to maintain markets.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.