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Can The Beef Industry Get Along?

I selected the title for this blog with a great deal of self-advisement beforehand. In the same vein as Wes Ishmael’s recent blog where he detailed a long conversation he had with himself, I had to think this one through a little bit.

The reason? I knew the answer before I asked the question. And the answer is…No, we can’t.

Don’t take it personally. A brief walk through the pages of human history shows we never have been able to. So maybe being disagreeable is in our DNA. At least one could get that idea from reading the comments that the veggies who troll looking for something to get mad about like to post. So maybe that’s it—vegetarian lifestyle=disagreeable personality. I know I’d be pretty cranky if that’s all I had to eat.

But I digress. One could also get that idea by reading the comments that the legitimate readers of our online articles post.


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For example, there were several comments on a recent article about Lee Leachman’s perspective on the beef business. Leachman is unabashedly all about producing high-quality beef, the kind of product that high end restaurants with very white tablecloths demand.

In fact, at a recent field day at Decatur County Feedyard in Oberlin, KS, Leachman went as far as to reference Rabobank’s report earlier this year indicating that the U.S. has become a hamburger society. He told the folks in attendance that if they wanted to produce beef for the hamburger market, they were in the wrong room.

Which leaves me scratching my head—not at Leachman’s comments, but the fact that I can‘t make the numbers add up.

Rabobank’s Don Close makes a strong and thoughtful argument that ground beef is what’s leading consumer demand in the U.S. Then I look at the success of the many branded beef programs in the country, most of which specify upper two-thirds Choice. So clearly there’s a demand for the good stuff, too. In fact, one foodservice distributor told me recently that its high-end branded beef program is outselling everything else they offer and its sales increases are gaining faster than the rest of the company put together.

Maybe I don’t have to make the numbers add up. Maybe all I have to do is recognize that we have a very diversified bunch of consumers out there, who create markets for a very diversified offering of beef products, which creates opportunities for the many entrepreneurially-minded folks who call themselves beef producers.

Maybe we all do.


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