Ford Motor Co. cattle industry friend or foe?

Ford Motor Co. uses ranchers to sell pickups, but it doesn't support the cattle business. That's what many cattle producers are thinking after learning that the nation's number-one truck maker donated nearly $40 million to activist environmental groups. Following numerous phone calls from producers expressing their concerns, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) has requested a meeting

Ford Motor Co. uses ranchers to sell pickups, but it doesn't support the cattle business. That's what many cattle producers are thinking after learning that the nation's number-one truck maker donated nearly $40 million to activist environmental groups.

Following numerous phone calls from producers expressing their concerns, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) has requested a meeting with Ford officials to discuss the matter. In a letter, NCBA president Lynn Cornwell, a rancher from Glasgow, MT, says Ford's funding of such groups as the Audubon Society and EarthWatch “advance an agenda that puts at risk the livelihoods of the very people whose image you have used to symbolize your products.”

The letter also points out the widespread recognition by federal and state governments, private industry, mainstream conservation and natural resource groups, and sportsmen's organizations of the beef industry's record of stewardship of land and water resources.

The national beef checkoff celebrated its 15th anniversary in October. Fifteen years after the inception of the $1 checkoff, there remains a great deal of misinformation among producers about the self-help program designed to fund research and help promote beef.

Find out the real story by checking out the Beef Board's Web site at — the definitive site for information on the program. There, you can read the text of the act and order that created the program, learn the program's mission, how it's organized and the requirements and constraints on the spending of checkoff dollars. In addition, you can learn about research and promotion efforts, the beef industry volunteers who oversee the program and the latest annual report on spending.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) can't become established in the U.S. That's the conclusion of a Harvard University risk assessment study.

The report says early protection systems put in place by the U.S. have kept out BSE thus far and would prevent its spread if it did enter. Even so, officials outlined a series of actions to reduce that risk even further (see page 65).

Obtain a complete copy of the Harvard report at For more information on BSE and efforts to prevent it in the U.S., also visit

Consumers give beef steaks and roasts high marks for safety. It's a B+, as a matter of fact — the same grade they give to the overall U.S. food supply. Meanwhile, consumers gave an average safety grade of B to pork chops, fish, chicken, ground beef and ground pork.

In the checkoff-funded, national consumer poll conducted by IPSOS-Reid U.S. Public Affairs on behalf of the Cattlemen's Beef Board, Americans gave the highest grades to the safety of vegetables and fruits (A-).

U.S. consumers say they're moderately concerned about the food supply's vulnerability to terrorist attacks. On average, 18% of respondents said they're extremely concerned about the vulnerability of beef, chicken, pork, fish/seafood, milk fruits and vegetables. Another 27% said they were not at all concerned.

The survey also found that consumers' top three food safety concerns were bacteria (39% extremely concerned), pesticides (38%) and chemical additives (33%). Other food safety concerns were hormones (30%), genetically-modified foods (26%) antibiotics (23%) and irradiated foods (21%).

Respondents listed fish as the food about which they had the highest food safety concern (26%), followed by chicken (22%) and pre-prepared foods (21%). Beef registered 14%, followed by pork (12%) and fruits/vegetables (4%).

The U.S. Supreme Court has snubbed order buyer Jerry Goetz again. In late November, the land's highest court denied for a second time the Kansan's request for appeal of his claim that he shouldn't have to pay the beef checkoff because it's unconstitutional. The appeal is to a 1998 U.S Court of Appeals ruling that found the checkoff to be constitutional.

The high court's refusal means the lower court's April 2001 ruling that Goetz must pay past-due checkoff assessments, late fees and penalties for his intentional non-compliance stands.

Meanwhile, in another court case involving the checkoff, a South Dakota Federal District Court judge was scheduled to hear constitutionality arguments on Dec. 20. The case was brought by a group led by the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA).

LMA earlier had spent 18 months mounting a failed attempt to raise enough producer signatures to call for a referendum on the checkoff. Following that, the group tried suing for a court-ordered referendum. Then, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the mushroom industry's checkoff unconstitutional due to First-Amendment violations of freedom of speech and association, Goetz and LMA decided to resubmit their claims.

Tyson Foods' IBP unit plans to buy more live cattle on a carcass value basis. In remarks before the Kansas Livestock Association, CEO John Tyson said the cattle buying evolution begun by IBP before the October merger that created the world's largest protein provider will continue. The move, he said, is driven by what the firm's customers and consumers want and need. A value-based buying system is needed for Tyson to efficiently produce the end-products demanded by consumers, he said.

Tyson said the beef industry can expect the same marketing strategies that made Tyson a household word for chicken. He said Tyson has developed more than 6,000 variations of poultry-based products in that effort.

Integration, however, will not be a tactic practiced in the firm's beef ventures, he said. Developing, producing and marketing finished products will.

“Conditions that created vertical integration in the chicken business didn't exist at that time in the cattle and hog business — and they don't exist today, from our viewpoint,” he said. “To completely vertically integrate all the cattle and hog production today just does not make good economic sense.”

A domestically-produced milk replacer and fish meal are drawing attention in Japan. Japan recently recorded its third case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Japanese officials think the two products, which contained the now-banned meat-and-bone meal (MBM), may have been fed to all three positive animals, a Kyodo news agency reports.

The milk replacer consists of skim milk powder and contains plasma protein made from pigs and beef tallow. Meanwhile, the “adjust fish meal,” which was originally developed for poultry but fed to cows by many farmers, is a mixture of powdered fish meal and MBM, Reuters reports.

In late November, Japan's Agriculture Ministry announced it would slaughter all 5,129 cows fed MBM. Japan's first BSE case, reported Sept. 22, was the first outside Europe. The government has been testing all cattle slaughtered in Japan since Oct. 18.

Cattlewoman Louise Willey of Brawley, CA, has passed away. An Imperial Valley cattle feeding leader and a major volunteer player in the old National Livestock and Meat Board, she and her two sons operated Pasqual Land and Cattle Co. of Brawley. Our condolences to her family.

For the most part, NBC gave the U.S. beef industry a fair shake in its Nov. 29 episode of “West Wing.” The popular drama that depicts actor Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet in a fictional White House, dealt with the discovery of a suspected BSE-infected cow in Ogallala, NE.

“The beef industry mostly won on the final script,” says NCBA's incoming president, rancher Wythe Willey of Cedar Rapids, IA. “We were able to get a lot of correct information about BSE to the writers. But, the episode left the viewer up in the air because it isn't confirmed by show's end whether the case is positive for BSE or not.

“A lot of people believe that what they see on television is based on fact. We've never had a case of BSE in the U.S., but some viewers might think that we do based on the ending of that episode,” Willey says.

The episode effectively educated viewers about the size and importance of the beef industry to the U.S. economy, as well as the excellent regulatory and surveillance records.

Gary Weber, NCBA's executive director of scientific and regulatory affairs, worked with the show's writers. He pointed out measures the U.S. has in place to both prevent BSE in the country and corral it, should it be found. He also provided information on BSE testing and handling procedures and the potential impacts of BSE on the U.S. beef industry.

Put the burger up there alongside Mom and apple pie. The burger remains the number-one sandwich on the menu and the best-selling sandwich. That's according to the recent 2001 Menu Census conducted by Restaurants and Institutions, a national trade publication. Prime rib, strip steak, filet mignon/tenderloin, roast beef and rib/ribeye steaks are the top five meat entrée sellers. Meanwhile, barbeque beef brisket showed the greatest sales increase since 1999, while steak salads are making more inroads on the menu.

Oregon has experienced 100 “major acts of terrorism” in the last 20 years — a third of those in just the last four years. That's the background U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR) gives in sponsoring a bill that would establish a national environmental terrorism information clearinghouse and step up federal aid for areas of high activity, the Boston Globe reports.

A number of such incidences since the terrorist bombings of Sept. 11 is stoking the fire for action. One was the firebombing of a primate research lab in New Mexico that caused $1 million in damages. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) claimed responsibility.

Meanwhile, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) claimed responsibility for torching a federal land management facility in California that caused $85,000 in damages. The group is also suspected of planting explosives in a Michigan Tech University forestry research center.

Western state legislators, particularly, want the federal government's anti-terrorism focus to include domestic environmental and animal rights groups. The FBI, in fact, earlier this year identified such groups as the largest and fastest-growing domestic threats.

“The point has come when we need to strip away the Robin Hood mystique from this terrorism in our country,” the Boston Globe article quotes Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO). McInnis and other Western Republican legislators have contacted mainstream environmental groups about disavowing groups like ELF and ALF.

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal, 952/851-4669 or e-mail