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The 'ol beef biz; it ain’t what it used to beThe 'ol beef biz; it ain’t what it used to be

From investing in ag land to animal disease traceability, the fabric of the beef business in changing.

Burt Rutherford

December 18, 2019

3 Min Read
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“The times, they are a’changin’.”

I’ve used that Bob Dylan quote several times over the years. And it’s truer now than it was back when Bob first crooned the line. (Note—I hesitate to refer to his singing as crooning, but crooning is nicely descriptive of the idea.)

Thing is, the times are changing faster and faster. In perusing my email before writing this, I find several examples.

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First is a release from Harvest Returns, a group that describes itself as …”a financial technology company created in 2016 by two military veterans to bring agricultural producers together with investors.”

That’s not unusual. But this is. “Harvest Returns, an online platform for agriculture investing, today announced that it will accept cryptocurrencies as form of payment for its offerings,” according to the release.

“Via its escrow technology partner Prime Trust, Harvest Returns investors will have another option to fund their investments seamlessly, specifically using Bitcoin and Ethereum. Prime Trust will accept the crypto then convert it to U.S. dollars to fund selected offerings listed on the Harvest Returns platform. Blockchain technology is gradually becoming more important in food production and traceability, so introducing it into the financial side of agriculture is a logical step.”


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Then this: a company called Inovatec wants to streamline the lending practices for buying or leasing ag equipment.

“Inovatec is using Artificial Intelligence to simplify lending processes by working with banks and financial institutions to streamline their internal operations, resulting in quicker decisions,” their release says. “While a bank may use one computer system to process loans, they may use another for external customer communication and another for initial applications. However, none of these systems are connected with each other. Inovatec is the technology improving these flaws by streamlining all aspects together.”

And finally, this from the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University, on an economic analysis of Cattle Trace.

The question often asked by beef producers is "What is this [traceability] going to cost me?" According to agricultural economist and BCI faculty member Dustin Pendell, the answer will vary depending on the size of the operation.

"On a small operation, such as one with 30 head, the total costs are going to be a lot higher compared to a 2,000-head operation because in the larger operation those fixed expenses can be spread out," Pendell says.

To better understand the economics of traceability, Pendell and a team of researchers studied the costs and impacts of CattleTrace. First, they looked at the direct costs to beef producers associated with the program. Secondly, they evaluated the economic impacts to the industry as a whole.

Pendell says when considering the economics of scale, the average cost of implementing ranged from $2.84 to $6.06 per head for cow-calf producers; 40 cents to 83 cents per head for backgrounders; 14 cents per head for sale barn managers; 33 cents to 55 cents per head for feedlot operators; and 2 cents to 18 cents per head for packers.

In summary, Pendell says, "The implementation of a national disease traceability program is inevitable, and beef industry stakeholders are helping to guide and shape the structure and characteristics of such a system."

Indeed, the times are changing. Are we ready to change with them?



About the Author(s)

Burt Rutherford

Senior Editor, BEEF Magazine

Burt Rutherford is director of content and senior editor of BEEF. He has nearly 40 years’ experience communicating about the beef industry. A Colorado native and graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in agricultural journalism, he now works from his home base in Colorado. He worked as communications director for the North American Limousin Foundation and editor of the Western Livestock Journal before spending 21 years as communications director for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. He works to keep BEEF readers informed of trends and production practices to bolster the bottom line.

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