I recently read a blog from a very intelligent and articulate supporter of grass-fed beef. What amazed me was not his belief in the value of grass-fed beef, or his reference to the rising demand for such products, but his dismay that this growing demand hadn’t translated into financial success for American producers of grass-fed beef.
In conclusion, he lamented that the buildup in demand for grass-fed beef hadn’t sufficiently rewarded U.S. producers of grass-fed beef but had opened markets for foreign competitors. What intrigued me was his recognition that the U.S. beef industry’s success is based on high-quality, corn-fed beef, a product sector that America leads in both quality and production efficiency, but we are unable to compete with other regions of the world on a grass-fed basis.
Of course, these facts aren’t new, and they’ve long been understood. Yet this individual felt betrayed by a system that is working just as it was intended. The only way U.S. grass-fed beef can compete is with protectionist policies that shelter it from the global competition.
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Of course, that model has worked and can work; ethanol is a prime example. No one would have invested in the ethanol industry without knowing it was going to be subsidized, protected and mandated. Ethanol’s very viability depended on it being isolated from market realities, as does the grass-fed segment of our business.
Of course, the difference is that the ethanol industry secured those assurances before moving forward. Meanwhile, the grass-fed industry set about creating demand for a product that can’t be produced on a cost-effective basis in comparison to its competitors.
I think this is illustrative of a wider dynamic underway in society. Certain issues – things like proper nutrition, climate change, foreign policy, economics, etc. – should never fall victim to opinion and bias. Rather, such decisions should be based on good facts and intelligence. In today’s polarized climate, however, all these areas have become so politicized that science is often not only ignored but almost abhorred.
True science has served mankind very well. It’s made life infinitely better and helped correct the effects of past mistakes that civilization may have made. However, in today’s polarized atmosphere, any finding, or potential finding, that challenges a prevailing dogma or philosophy is shunned. The result is that many misconceptions have become enshrined as articles of faith.
If a researcher seeks money to do a study that proves meat is bad for you, the funding flows. If one seeks funding for research that might validate the good qualities of eating meat, you’re not only on your own, but you risk being ostracized.
Climate change advocates have gone even further than the nutrition zealots in this regard. And that’s despite growing scientific data that questions many of the assumptions about the causes and effects of climate change. These zealots just insist – and loudly – that it is an article of faith that climate change is devastating and self-inflicted; and anyone who questions climate change or its impact is ignorant, misguided and morally and ethically bankrupt.
Similarly, U.S. foreign policy today doesn’t seem directed by the facts on the ground or professional intelligence assessments. Rather, it’s shaped by an overriding view of how the world should be, or we want it to be. Thus, mass atrocities, incursions, subjugation of populations, and even direct quotes from the perpetrators are ignored if they don’t fit preconceived views of how the world should be.
Economics has always been both an art and a science, but it also has a large philosophical element. Projections about the future aren’t perfect, but when looking back at the past, the scientific part of economics is very illustrative. Yet, the retrospection is ignored if it doesn’t fit the philosophical paradigm that one holds. And increasingly that paradigm isn’t conducive with the capitalism that built this country.
What I find most disconcerting is that these causes seem to be coalescing under the banner of anti-capitalism. I think a clear illustration of this is the recent march for climate change in New York City. There were more signs decrying capitalism and promoting socialism in that event than there were about global warming.
Plus, if one considers the amount of garbage left behind on the streets of New York City by the climate change marchers, it’s hard to believe that saving the environment could have been the event’s true primary objective.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and the Farm Progress Group.
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