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It’s Time For Producers To Get Closer To Consumers

May is Beef Month, which is a great kickoff to the summer grilling season. It’s a great time for my favorite protein of choice to shine!

It’s hard to beat a cheeseburger, steak kabobs, or ribeye hot off the grill. Beef is often the center of many celebrations — weddings, graduations, job promotions, date nights, and family gatherings.

Beef is protein-rich and packed with 10 essential nutrients, and I know I’m biased as a cattle rancher, but beef tastes pretty darn good, as well.

Plus, when you see those cow-calf pairs out grazing on grass in the summer pastures, it’s truly a picture of pristine beauty. Fresh air, clear blue skies, and an abundance of wildlife — yes, it’s really hard to grasp how the media has taken hold of the “cow farts” myth and spread it like wildfire.

Speaking of wildfires, did you know that when cattle graze, they reduce the spread of wildfires with each bite by removing brush and promoting new growth of grass? It’s an incredible thing.

If you’ve been following this column for any stretch of time, you already know I’m a huge fan of beef, as well as all animal fats and proteins. I truly believe that meat, dairy, and eggs are critical for human health, and livestock play a critical role in maintaining a healthy planet, as well.

And it turns out, consumers agree. According to the USA, per capita red meat and poultry consumption for 2022 is expected to reach a near record high, second only to the previous high in 2021. 

Per the USDA, “Over the last decade (2012–21), per capita meat disappearance has generally been on an upward trend, with an overall increase of 22.5 pounds. The latest USDA forecast indicates that in 2022, U.S. consumers will have access to 224.6 pounds of red meat and poultry on a per capita retail weight basis. This forecast is 0.2 pounds lower than last year, and 10.3 pounds higher than the 2012–21 average.”

This statistic is great news in reaffirming what we already know — consumers love and want our products.

Yet, one has to ask — if consumers want more meat, and prices are sky high at the retail store, why are more and more ranchers exiting the business each year? What is going on where cattlemen and women aren’t getting their fair share of the retail dollar?

That’s the billion-dollar question — a question that has plagued and divided the industry for 25 years. Lobbying groups are busy in Washington, D.C. fighting for solutions, but I guess I’m a pessimist that I highly doubt these elected officials are too worried about fixing our market woes. And even if they do, the wheels of justice move mighty slow. How many more producers will be out of business before things get ironed out?

My solution is to control what we can while we fight for a better future. I refuse to lose to these elitist politicians and activist groups who have made it very clear they want to strip producers off the land and remove meat, dairy, and eggs off the dinner table. So what’s my plan?

I believe if producers get closer to the consumer, they will be able to earn premiums while creating priceless connections with the people we aim to serve. If the system is broken, step outside of that system and create a new one that favors the American family farms and ranches. 

Yes, it’s hard. And yes, there are roadblocks to success. But the contrary is staying in the red, which most of us can’t afford to do. Control what you can. Connect with other producers who want to do the same. Begin to build your network of consumers who want to support what you do and who value your product, and then capture what is yours, my friends.

Yes, we face many challenges in the beef industry today, but in this hard space, I can also see many opportunities for those who are willing to say “no” to the status quo. Are you ready to take advantage of these opportunities? Let’s get to work! 

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