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Beef

By 2050, economic projections indicate farmers and ranchers will need to produce 70 percent more food to feed the growing population of the world. 

“For the meat industry, it is good news because estimations for how much protein will be needed is astounding,” says Kim Stackhouse of JBS USA. 

The projections are 40 million metric tons of beef and 100 million metric tons of chicken. 

“From a sustainability standpoint, how do we meet those kind of expectations for protein? How do we meet all these demands with the resources we have? This has been said to be the greatest challenge of every generation’s time,” Stackhouse says.

Keys to efficiency 

Efficiency and technology will be key to making the use of resources even more efficient in Stackhouse’s opinion.

“We will continue to innovate so we can feed the world, and the U.S. will be a powerhouse when it comes to animal proteins. We have an impressive history of meeting demand,” she states.

Stackhouse believes an increased percentage in dressed weight of cattle could lead the way. 

“We have continued to produce more pounds per carcass. Less than 10 years ago, we started to see average dressed weights for U.S. slaughter cattle explode. At JBS USA, we average 63.5 percent yield. Even a percentage jump is a lot more beef. We will continue to get more efficient to meet this protein demand,” she explains.

Changes in consumer demand

The meat case has evolved since the 1960s, allowing consumers more choices. It is not uncommon to find grassfed, conventional, natural and antibiotic-free beef side by side in the meat department. 

“As an industry, we have adapted to consumer change and response. Everyone in the beef industry should be proud of the choices we can now offer consumers,” Stackhouse explains. “What is more impressive is the developments we have made in animal health.” 

“When research came out years ago saying meat was bad for us, we stepped up and changed our genetics to produce meat with less fat and more lean muscle cuts,” she continues. 

Media reports

“Everyone lumps everything under sustainability,” Stackhouse says. 

When a United Nations report came out years ago accusing livestock of being responsible for 18 percent of man-made greenhouse gases, it started activist movements that still exist today, like meatless Mondays. 

Consumer Reports jumped on the bandwagon to attack beef by publishing information about how bad beef was for consumers. 

“It is a big ask for American consumers, who don’t have time to do the research, are not close to food production and antibiotics or realize how hard we work every day to produce safe food, that Consumer Reports may be good at picking out a safe car seat but not our food,” she says. “This kind of stuff really matters, and I stay awake at nights worrying about this fear of food movement.”

Expectations

Consumer expectations are changing and with it is a growing expectation about transparency. 

“I even found this on a box of baby wipes the other day,” she jokes. “Millennials will pay more, even if they don’t have the money, if they think it will change the world.”

Stackhouse continues, “They are twice as likely to care if food is organic. They are more concerned with political and ethical issues, and they care about what’s genuine and authentic.”  

“That same generation grew up with the internet, but their parents told them not to trust Wikipedia. They trust their friends more than facts, which has completely shifted the paradigm of retailers. Now, retailers have a group of consumers who don’t trust facts but trust relationships,” she says.

In response, Costco developed a strong brand recognition with moms, Stackhouse states. 

“Costco developed an authentic relationship with consumers through their business plan. They only make money off the membership we pay for,” she describes. “Everything else they sell in their store for what they pay for it. Members believe they get this incredible value, and through their membership they say, ‘Make sure the things you buy fit my values.’”

With 750,000 cow/calf producers in the U.S. and the average herd size of 40 head, the beef industry is complicated. 

“Moms expect Costco to have their backs, and that is a big job for Costco,” she explains. “It has forced companies like JBS USA to become more transparent. We have to demonstrate to these retail partners that we have alleviated risk from our system, and that we share the same values of our retail partners.” 

“We now have a more public facing approach to how we do business,” she says.

Competing with other
 proteins 

“From a beef perspective, our other proteins are meeting customers and consumers where they are at because they are able to. They are more integrated supply chains that are not as complex or as expensive as producing beef,” Stackhouse explains. “Consumers define sustainability as organic, natural and cage-free. These proteins have been able to develop the trust with moms who read Consumer Reports and go to Costco.” 

“Costco wants to transition everything to organic, because that’s what their customers believe in,” she notes. “Beef is missing from connecting with customers on a value level. It is a challenge for us because of the increased costs, which may make it prohibitive.”

Innovation

Blockbuster once had a chance to purchase Netflix for $50 million, Stackhouse shares. Blockbuster declined saying the company didn’t fit their business model. 

“Last I read, Netflix was worth more than $190 billion, and what happened to Blockbuster? So my question is, do we innovate?” she asks.

“We may not agree with where our customers are, but we have to meet them where their values are at and develop a trusting relationship with them,” she states. “It is critical for our success as a beef industry, moving forward.” 

“I realize we don’t have the flexibility or ability from a cost-perspective to change like chicken does. But, our challenge is to develop relationships and trust where their values are, in a different way,” she explains.

Stackhouse talked to producers, nutritionists and students about sustainability and how the beef industry can meet consumer expectations during a recent High Plains Nutrition Roundtable in Laramie.  

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Shoshoni – Though their ranch is based in Vernal, Utah, Caleb Taylor and his grandfather Lyle brought several bulls to the Wyoming Beef Cattle Improvement Association (WBCIA) Bull Test in Shoshoni to test their stock against other from across the state. 

“My grandpa has been raising registered Herefords since 1943,” says Taylor. “He’s 90 now, and still is involved on the ranch. Over the last 10 years, I’ve started to take things over slowly.” 

Family ranch

The family’s Hereford bulls extend from the same bloodlines that started the herd in 1943, and Taylor notes he uses a similar strategy in selecting and breeding bulls to maintain the same quality they’ve seen over the past 75 years. 

“When Herefords started to go out of style in the 1980s, my grandpa tried Salers. That didn’t work, so he got into Red Angus, as well,” he says. “Today, we run registered Red Angus, registered Herefords and a herd of Red Angus-Hereford cross cattle.” 

During the summer months, the herd grazes a U.S. Forest Service permit, which reaches 9,600 feet in elevation.

“Our summer pastures are at almost 10,000 feet, and the Herefords do really well up there. We don’t see brisket disease or high-altitude sickness like other breeds,” Taylor comments. “They run in the rocks, trees and timber, and our bulls always come home looking good.” 

Testing bulls

The Taylor family has consigned bulls to the WBCIA Test for many years, but this year is the first year they brought a Hereford bull to the test. 

“I really like the Hereford bull we brought to WBCIA this year,” Taylor continues. “He stood out coming off of summer pasture and looks really good.” 

With a diversified operation, Taylor says, “We don’t just raise bulls to raise bulls. We have to also like the cows, and they have to do well.”

Utilizing WBCIA’s Bull Test provides real-world proof of a bull’s performance that goes beyond EPDs, Taylor adds. 

“Bull testing gives us real-world information,” he explains. “We have expected progeny differences, which gives us some expectations, but bull testing puts them up against other bulls.”

Taylor Ranches has sent bulls to WBCIA, Midland Bull Test and the Utah Beef Improvement Association Bull Test, noting each test offers a different environment for their bulls to prove themselves. 

“We sent bulls up to Wyoming to scatter them out and see what they can do,” Taylor says. 

Ranching business

For Taylor, ranching is a dream he’s had for many years. 

“Ever since I was a little boy, all I ever wanted to do was follow my grandpa around and watch cows,” he says. “There’s freedom in this livestock that I really enjoy.” 

Taylor adds, ranching isn’t a career choice. Rather, it’s a lifestyle choice. 

“We really have to want to ranch,” Taylor comments. “I’m probably never going to get rich, but I’m always going to enjoy what I do.” 

The family first started selling bulls into Wyoming several years ago on Craig’s List, and they found a lot of interest from Wyoming buyers looking at Hereford bulls. 

“We still have bulls available on the ranch for sale, too,” Taylor says. “We have some nice Hereford bulls to offer anyone who’s interested.” 

Caleb Taylor can be reached at 435-790-2470.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – In today’s hyper-connected world, Zoetis Nutritionist Gary Sides emphasized to producers that access to the sheer amount of information that is available can be both helpful and harmful.

“We literally, with our fingertips, have access to the accumulated knowledge of mankind,” he commented during an April 20 producer dinner, sponsored by Zoetis and Superior Livestock Auction in Casper. “If we want, we can find information that fits any bias we want.”

He continued, “With Google, we can find out how to build an atomic bomb, yet most of our consuming public has no clue where their food comes from.”

As a result, the information they do collect may not have any basis in science or fact.

Food ‘authorities’

“The famous food scientists that tell us what we should eat include Michelle Obama, Michael Pollan, Oprah Winfrey and Meryl Streep,” Sides said. “About 20 year ago, Meryl Streep almost destroyed the apple industry.”

Streep’s comments about a product sprayed on apples to maintain color on 60 Minutes nearly destroyed the industry.

As First Lady, Sides also noted that Michelle Obama has redesigned the school lunch program across the nation.

“Nationwide, Michelle Obama is telling our school kids what they should have for lunch,” he said. “What are her credentials? She has a microphone, and she’s repeating what she’s heard for the past 60 years.”

The media message for over a half a century has been to avoid animal proteins and fat.

Food trends

“When we look at news about animal products, whether it’s beef, eggs or pork,” Sides added. “They say it’s going to kill us, or we’ll die if we eat it.”

Since the 1950s, magazines have been using misconstrued data to advocate against consumption of proteins and fats, instead favoring a diet high in grains, vegetables and fruit. Over time, as vegetable oils replaced animal fats and beef consumption was replaced by chicken or vegetable proteins, Sides commented that the health of Americans has actually declined.

“With a low fat, high carb diet, I’ll never die, right? Am I missing anything so far?” Sides said, parroting many media outlets. “But the results seem to be just the opposite.”

Obesity has nearly tripled in both adults and children, and diabetes has also increased.

Salt

One of the major concerns for doctors has been salt intake.

“If I have really elevated blood pressure, the first thing the doctor tells us is to quit the salt,” Sides said. “It’s settled science, and we’ve known this for decades. The current recommendation is less than 1,500 milligrams – less than half a teaspoon.”

However, in a meta-analysis that analyzed 167 clinical trials, no effect was seen from sodium on blood pressure.

“The folks with the low sodium diet had higher rates of diseases than those on the high sodium diet,” he explained. “In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control even said they’d been wrong about the salt. Now they want us to eat between 3,000 and 7,000 milligrams a day.”

As just one example of bad nutrition information, Sides continued that vegan diets are another.

“Vegans don’t have any healthier lives and don’t live as long as meat eaters,” he said.

Skewed science

Additional recommendations on fat consumption and cholesterol have also included flawed science. Sides used the example of Ancel Keys seven country study.

“This study was dated February 1963, and Ancel Keys was a professor at the University of Minnesota,” he said. “He did a survey after World War II of 26 countries with a questionnaire.”

The questionnaire asked about diet and health, including heart disease.

“He came up with this theory that higher saturated fat meant a greater chance of dying of heart disease,” Sides said. “He only used seven countries in his actual published data because the other countries didn’t follow the theory. He kicked them out and cherry-picked the data.”

“This all started as a lie from Ancel Keys,” he added.

Beef’s role

While cholesterol and salt have been implicated in diseases like heart diseases, Sides said that beef can actual be helpful in preventing heart disease.

“The fat in beef is 40 percent steric acid and 40 percent oleic acid,” he said. “These fats decrease very low density lipoproteins (vLDLs) and increase high density lipoproteins (HDLs) and triglycerides. The remaining 30 percent of fat in beef is neutral, so the fat in beef is heart healthy. It is one of the few items in our diet that can do those three things – just the opposite of what we’ve been told.”

In addition, Harvard’s scientists have looked at 21 clinical studies from the past 40 years that were purported to show that fat caused heart disease.

“The problem is, when they analyzed the data, they found no association between cholesterol and heart disease,” he said. “Is there a dietary factor that affects heart disease? Yes. What is it? Refined carbohydrates.”

Carb diets

Refined carbohydrates have steadily been increasing in the diet of Americans.

“We eat 130 pounds per capita of sugar per year. About 75 pounds of that is white sugar, and the rest is high fructose corn syrup,” Sides said, noting that the second or third ingredient in many prepared foods from the grocery store is sugar or corn syrup.

“Here’s the take-home message,” he added. “It’s not the number of calories that we eat. It’s the source of those calories. If the source is something that raises insulin levels, that’s the problem.”

Elevated insulin causes calories consumed to be stored as fat, Sides explained, which is the reason for obesity in Americans.

Even with exercise, Sides said that a low fat, high carbohydrate diet will lead to weight gain.

“We need fat, and children need fat,” Sides added. “We’ve had it 180 degrees backwards for about 50 years.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Denver, Colo. —“We want this industry to thrive, but without the freedom to operate that won’t happen,” stated Elanco Animal Health President Jeff Simons, during the 2010 International Livestock Congress-USA held in conjunction with the National Western Stock show in Denver, Colo.
Simons spoke to attendees about the future of food production and the consequences of some recent choices in parts of the world. He emphasized limiting food related policies and implementing new technology to meet world demand. He also encouraged those in attendance to tell the true story about agriculture and be aware of what consumers want.
“We have as much of a social responsibility as an economic opportunity. One billion out of six billion people go hungry. Saying we have too much meat and milk in the United States is being short sighted,” stated Simons.
He added 250 people globally drive food policy and food choice. As an industry it is possible to make one’s voice heard, and Simons encouraged producers to tell those people what they think.
Simons stated that while everyone hears that in 50 years our world population will require twice the food consumed today, it is rarely mentioned that 70 percent of that food must come from technology. He explained 39 percent of usable land is already in production and only 40 percent can be used to produce food. Water is becoming less available and environmental challenges are increasing, which leaves technology utilization for increasing production.
Food technology
Technology is defined as three things. First is the question of how it can be done better from a practice perspective. Second is genetics and third is new technologies provided by industry related companies. Utilizing technology can make more food in a more affordable fashion. It can assure food safety and sustainability of the environment according to Simons.
An example of this is seen in U.S. milk production. Today 58 percent more milk is produced from 64 percent fewer cows that in 1944 due to technology. While the U.S. is currently considered to have an abundance of milk, Simons suggests we look at our options.  
China currently consumes 100 grams of calcium per person per day and they want to increase that to 300 grams in two years. While Simons thinks that time frame may be short, he said that to meet China’s demand 50 million more dairy cows are needed at current levels of production.
Another example can be found in traditional feeding operations. With available technology feeders use 38 to 40 percent less environmental resources than an organic grass fed operation. It is often a misrepresentation that ‘green’ practices are better for the environment.
Consumer demands
Understanding consumer dynamics is also a key when marketing any product. Simons found that seven percent of consumers really worry about agriculture production methods and wanted to know how their food was raised. One percent cited biotechnology as a concern and most assumed meat and poultry products are safe. From 2008 to 2009 affordability went up as a concern.
“When you aggregate the data 95 percent of consumers globally want food, and if they’re on a plant-based diet they want a meat-based diet. We’re the leaders of the business of livestock in the United States so that’s a big deal to us,” said Simons.
“When you go to the grocery store you see people looking at the price tag and the fat content,” said Simons, adding the third and fourth top concerns are affordability and nutrition.
Five percent of those surveyed want a lifestyle choice. While Simons said that’s fine, it isn’t fine when a sliver of that five percent try to turn their luxury into an extreme political choice. “When it turns into food policy it’s wrong. That’s when those directly involved in the industry need to get fired up,” he said.
He uses the United Kingdom as an example of what these small extremists can do to agriculture.
From 2002 to 2007 the U.K. was turned completely around. It was leading in swine genetics, raising broilers faster than anyone and had great husbandry practices. Then BSE rocked the country and consumer confidence plummeted and everything began to spiral. At this time non-governmental organizations (NG0s) took a foothold and started to move their positions to policy.
These policies took the UK from a number one food exporter in Europe in most categories to a net food importer. They can’t feed themselves and they were helping feed Eastern Europe. Farm income is down 71 percent, 60,000 farms are gone and the loss of millions of pounds of meat are a few of the consequences. The new belief is that the UK should be a green tourist country that gets food elsewhere.
“Today Brazil and many other countries are helping feed the UK when they could be feeding somebody else. That’s why we can’t feed ourselves and that’s why there’s a hunger problem,” stated Simons.
‘Social change’
He added that there is tremendous economic opportunity for countries like the U.S., but that we have to be extremely careful not to allow NGO policy to occur here. Proposition Two in California is now moving in 11 states and Simons encouraged everyone to speak out against these 250 people attempting to implement social change.
“Don’t let the U.S. become the next UK and let them be an example to us,” stated Simons.
The food production system can mitigate good economic change and technology can be a key tool used to implement positive changes.  Simons added that consumers deserve the widest possible variety of safe and affordable food choices and people involved in agriculture have the opportunity to provide those products.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



“Given relative certainty on tight supply, the key driver of realized prices in the industry in 2014 will be how strong beef demand is on the national level,” Kansas State University Livestock Economist Glynn Tonsor commented during a Feb. 11 webinar. “Demand is always key, but it is extra key when we have uncertainty around supply.”

Tonsor noted that demand reflects how much consumers value beef, and, ultimately, tells the industry how much money is available. 

“Dr. Wayne Purcell of Virginia Tech said, ‘To fix it, we have to understand it,’” Tonsor commented. 

Demand concerns

When Purcell made the statement regarding demand, Tonsor said the industry was seeing several decades of beef demand problems.

“Everyone needs to pause and understand the basics of beef demand before we can make rational strategic moves around the issue,” he said.

Beginning by looking at the relationship between price and per capita consumption, Tonsor explained that in 1989, Americans were consuming 69 pounds of beef per capita and the all-fresh beef price was $3.80. In 2013, consumption dropped to 56 pound per capita while the all-fresh beef price increased to $4.60. 

“Economists tend to do a demand line to describe the trade-off between increasing price and quantity changes,” he said. “As we ask consumers to pay more, how much do they pull away and how much are they interested in purchasing?”

Positive demand

For example, from 2011-12, Tonsor commented that a slight increase in pounds per capita, or pounds available, was realized, yet the inflation-adjusted price went up. 

“By definition, beef demand had to improve for that to occur,” he said. “If it did not and we had the same amount offered, if not more, we would expect price to come down slightly. That is not what occurred.”

In 2012, beef demand was 3.6 percent stronger than in 2011, he commented. 

Other hand

On the other hand, Tonsor compared that increase in 2012 to the situation in 2008-09. 

“Moving from 2008-09, there was a reduction in pound per capita, and the inflation adjusted price went down,” he noted. 

The result was a five percent decline in demand. If demand remained flat, price would have increased. 

Demand influencers

“When we talk about demand change over time, we see prices adjust to clear the market,” Tonsor said. “What we produce gets consumed. Long-term, what we produce is a function of demand, but year over year, we know what we produce, and for the most part, that is consumed.”

The major question, he added, is the relationship between the amount of product offered and the point in time that price clears the market.

The beef demand index provides an indicator for demand.

“The index compares all years relative to the base year of 1980,” he said. “In 2010, the index takes on a value of 50. That means that if demand was as strong in 2010 as in 1980, we would have twice as high retail beef price, once adjusted for inflation.”

However, lower beef prices resulted, after inflation, because demand fell.

“The demand index tell us how much demand erodes or improves year-over-year,” Tonsor said. 

Current story

“The very positive story is that in 2013 demand was up three percent,” Tonsor remarked. “That is the largest increase since the 2004 boom, and it is a very positive thing.”

Additionally, 2012 increased over 2011.

“If we look more narrowly at the individual quarters in the all-fresh demand series, the fourth quarter of 2012 was up almost two percent,” he said. “That was the 14th quarter in a row with a year-over-year increase.”

The continued increases tell a consistently positive story.

Moving to the fourth quarter of 2013, Tonsor explained that per capita consumption decreased by 1.4 percent and the inflation-adjusted beef price increased 3.6 percent. The price of beef was $5.01 per pound.

“This is what underlies the positive 1.8 percent increase in demand,” he said. 

“If prices would have increased 1.7 percent, I would say we had no demand change. We expect prices to go up if we have less consumed and flat demand,” Tonsor continued. “The fact prices increased by more than that tells me that demand increased.”

Further, the 3.6 percent increase in prices means that demand increased notably in the last quarter of 2013 over the previous year.

Moving forward

“Understanding how those price relationships compare to per capita availability consumption change over time is critical,” Tonsor emphasized. “It is going to be critical in 2014-15 because we are going to set low per capita consumption numbers.”

At the same time in 2014-15, consumers will be expected to pay historic high beef prices, and the industry will achieve historically high beef prices for the beef in the cattle price series to be realized, he said.

“I’m optimistic of that occurring,” Tonsor commented.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..