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5 Trending headlines in the beef world

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Here’s a look at 5 headlines that will be on everyone’s mind this week.

Let’s face it, school is back in session, fall is around the corner and that means we are getting ready for the winter months. But before you do, check out these five stories to know what’s been happening in the beef world.

1. Cattle movement suspension is extended due to Foot & Mouth Disease

The suspension on the movement of cattle in South Africa has been extended in a bid to halt the spread of foot and mouth disease.

The Agriculture Department said 11 new outbreaks of the disease have been recorded across Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, bringing the total number of infected cattle to 127.

South Africa’s red meat and livestock industry has been hardest hit, following the ban on the transport of cattle, which was implemented earlier this month.

Department spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said while the disease did not pose a threat to the human population, the public must remain vigilant regarding other cloven-hoofed animals.

“There are no cases where likely already on the farms at the time - where standstills were initiated, and some are neighbors of already infected properties, with contagious spread. The department regrets the economic impact of this disease on the farming enterprise. This decision was not taken lightly,” said Ngcobo.

2,  Oklahoma State University research aims to save billions for the beef industry.

Scientists in the Oklahoma State University Department of Animal and Food Sciences are working hard to stop the waste of billions of dollars of beef each year.

The U.S. beef industry loses $3 billion annually to meat discoloration. When beef is brown on the surface, it is discounted in price, and extensive discoloration leads to people throwing nutritious food in the trash.

Most people associate the bright, cherry red color of meat with freshness, but brown discoloration doesn’t mean your beef is bad. The discoloration is simply beef reacting to long-term exposure to oxygen.

When oxygen attaches to the protein myoglobin in muscles, oxymyoglobin forms and gives meat a bright, cherry red color. When oxymyoglobin continues to be exposed to oxygen, it turns into metmyoglobin. This process is called oxidation, which causes a chemical reaction similar to apples or potatoes turning brown when exposed to air.

Gretchen Mafi, professor of meat science in the animal and food sciences department, conducted research using oxygen scavengers, small iron pouches that can be placed inside the bags used for beef retail transportation. The iron pouches remove oxygen, and therefore lengthen the shelf life of the meat.

OSU scientists did not invent this method of packaging, Mafi said, but they have been testing the method for a private company to determine its effectiveness. In recently completed research, beef maintained its bright, red color for up to 23 days after being packaged with this process.

3. Global beef cattle education leader retires

Working in beef cattle education and with cattle producers long has been a passion of Joe Paschal, who admits he never intended to work long enough to retire from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service as a livestock specialist.

Paschal, whose career spans 40 years, is well known among Gulf Coast and statewide beef cattle producers as the go-to source for science-based information. His role as livestock specialist based in Corpus Christi ends Oct. 31 with his retirement, and fittingly the 2022 Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course was dedicated in honor of his service to Texas, national and international cattle producers.

Paschal said the idea of working as a livestock specialist caught his eye at a beef cattle judging event while observing Randall Grooms, who spent 26 years working as a beef cattle specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Research Center at Overton. Grooms was internationally recognized for his expertise and widely followed by purebred and commercial cattle producers through his educational programming.

“At the time, I was just overly impressed with how professional he was, how he was approached by beef cattle producers, greeted and respected by those people … it was then that I knew I wanted to get into this profession,” Paschal said.

Paschal initially went to work for the Charolais Breeders Association and was asked by Jim Sanders, Texas A&M Department of Animal Science faculty member, to return to College Station to complete his master’s and doctoral degrees.

“I’ve had the opportunity to do some really neat things, work with faculty at Texas A&M Kingsville, several breed associations,” Paschal said. “I’ve considered other opportunities, but this is a really good job working with the county agents, the animal science faculty, other departments and colleagues in research, extension and teaching. And of course, the ranchers across Texas, they are absolutely the world’s greatest. Any time I thought about throwing in the towel, I thought about the county agents and the ranchers. They are the industry giants.”

4. Out-sourcing the dry season: Cattle ranchers' responses to weather shocks in the Brazilian Amazon
Ranchers sell animals for fattening (e.g., to confinement operations) when pre-dry season rainfall signals indicate that it will a severe season.  If the pre-dry season temperature is higher than usual, however, they sell more animals for slaughter rather than fattening. 

In the new article “Out-sourcing the dry season: Cattle ranchers’ responses to weather shocks in the Brazilian Amazon” in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Marin Elisabeth Skidmore from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Wisconsin-Madison find out how ranchers anticipate and prepare for an extreme dry season.

Skidmore says, “The fact that ranchers sell animals for slaughter when temperatures are high indicates that the current technology in the region does not protect animals against heat stress.  This suggests that agroforestry or other cooling systems that provide shade would be beneficial in the region.  This will be particularly important as the dry season becomes longer and more severe, as other scientific papers indicate (e.g., Leite-Filho, 2019).  Confinement operations, which decouple food supply from the current local weather, are also likely to be increasingly important in a historically pasture-based region.

5. Vilsack says ‘renaissance’ taking place in ag

While speaking at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack offered an early peak at pilot projects selected for USDA’s $1 billion in funds for use on evaluating climate-smart agricultural commodities. Vilsack remains optimistic about the many investments being made in rural America during the last two years to continue to create more markets for U.S. farmers and set the foundation for U.S. to lead the world on climate.

Vilsack says USDA continues to encourage the agriculture industry in getting to a net zero carbon emissions future by focusing on actions that are voluntary, farmer-led and recognizing and respecting private property ownership. 

Check out the rest of the Vilsack story here:

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