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Feeder cattle prices stay steady to $3 higher

This week's market saw another good run of feeder cattle at the test auctions, especially with a large number of steers over 800 lbs and heifers over 700 lbs. The prices were mostly steady to $3 higher, but the top prices were set early in the week and then dropped on Wednesday on the heels of the big drop in the CME.

Slaughter cow numbers were almost the same as last week at the test auctions. Cow prices were $1-4 higher as the cow cutout and 90% trimmings jumped in price. Also the 90% trimmings, which are the biggest product from the cow and over 70% of the value in the cow cutout, were $2-4 higher than last year during this week.

USDA AMS asks: Is there need for livestock dealer trust?

USCapitolSpring0205H2-3619a-1540x800.jpg

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is accepting input through June 24, 2019, for a study it is conducting on the feasibility of establishing a livestock dealer statutory trust. AMS’ study will assist Congress in determining if there is a need to establish a livestock dealer statutory trust for the financial protection of livestock sellers. Completion of the study is required by the 2018 Farm Bill, with a final report due within one year. 

The study will:

  • analyze how the establishment of a livestock dealer statutory trust would affect buyer and seller behavior in markets for livestock,
  • examine how the establishment of a livestock dealer statutory trust would affect seller recovery in the event of a livestock dealer payment default,
  • consider what potential effects a livestock dealer statutory trust would have on credit availability, including impacts on lenders and lending behavior and other industry participants,
  • examine unique circumstances common to livestock dealers and how those circumstances could impact the functionality of a livestock dealer statutory trust,
  • study the feasibility of the industry-wide adoption of electronic funds transfer or another expeditious method of payment to provide sellers of livestock protection from nonsufficient funds payments,
  • assess the effectiveness of statutory trusts in other segments of agriculture, whether similar effects could be experienced under a livestock dealer statutory trust, and whether authorizing the Secretary to appoint an independent trustee under the livestock dealer statutory trust would improve seller recovery,
  • consider the effects of exempting dealers with average annual purchases under a de minimis threshold from being subject to the livestock dealer statutory trust, and
  • analyze how the establishment of a livestock dealer statutory trust would affect the treatment of sellers of livestock as it relates to preferential transfer in bankruptcy.

AMS invites customers and stakeholders to submit information and comments relevant to these objectives that will support development and completion of the study.

The notice soliciting public input for the study was published in the April 25, 2019, Federal Register. Comments may be posted at www.regulations.gov, or sent to: S. Brett Offutt, Chief Legal Officer/Policy Advisor, Packers and Stockyards Division; Fair Trade Practices Program, Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; 1400 Independence Avenue, SW; Room 2507, STOP 3601; Washington, D.C. 20250-3601. All comments should reference the docket number AMS-FTPP-19-0037, the date of submission, and the page number of the Federal Register issue.

Source: USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 

Walmart creating Angus beef supply chain

Walmart walmart beef supply chain FDS.jpg

Walmart, the nation’s largest grocer, announced April 24 that it is entering the beef industry by developing an end-to-end supply chain for Angus beef.

The retailer said it has been diligently working to improve the quality of its food offering, with its fresh division and meat department at the forefront of this effort. To ensure a supply of quality Angus beef and to meet customer demand for a more transparent supply chain, Walmart teamed up with best-in-class partners, including Texas rancher Bob McClaren of Prime Pursuits and Mc6 Cattle Feeders.

“As clean labels, traceability and transparency become more and more important to customers, we’ve made plans to enter into the beef industry creating an unmatched system that allows us to deliver consistent quality and value,” said Scott Neal, senior vice president of meat for Walmart U.S. “By enlisting a number of best-in-class companies to take part in the supply chain, we’ll be able to provide customers with unprecedented quality, provide transparency throughout the supply chain and leverage the learnings we gain across our business.”

A selection of Angus beef cuts from this supply chain, like steaks and roasts, will be sold in 500 Walmart stores across a number of states in the Southeast, including Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

The company said the new supply chain effort will create steady demand for ranchers and feedyards, offering stability in the marketplace. In addition, more than 250 jobs will be created in Kansas at the Creekstone Farms beef processing facility, with another 200-plus jobs created in Georgia, where Walmart owns a case-ready facility that will be run by FPL Food.

“No bigger paradigm change has taken place in the beef industry than what is happening with Walmart bringing truly high-quality, all-natural, no-hormones-added Black Angus beef to its customers,” McClaren said. “This bold vision gives Walmart a special place at the table by contributing to the most enjoyable and memorable moments in the lives of its customers.”

He continued, “It’s been four generations since we began, yet the traditional values of the McClaren family and 44 Farms are as relevant today as they were more than a century ago.”

Hank McWhorter of Mc6 Cattle Feeders said Walmart has listened to its hard-working customers by taking on the “monumental task” of providing steakhouse-quality, natural Black Angus beef to local stores.

“This bold vision will not only elevate backyard barbeques and family dinner tables across the country but transform the entire supply chain,” he said, adding that Mc6 Cattle Feeders is “honored to help make this vision a reality.”

“Mc6 is a family business that has been feeding and raising cattle on the same land in the Texas panhandle for four generations,” he said.

Creekstone president and chief executive officer Satoru Oura said, “Creekstone welcomes the opportunity to partner with industry leaders in providing premium-quality Black Angus beef to Walmart customers while at the same time growing the number of jobs at our state-of-the-art facility.”

Neal said through the new supply chain, Walmart customers can trust that their meat department purchase will be among the best and most delicious they can get. “Having visibility to the end-to-end process lets us know we are helping our customers bring a consistently great piece of meat to their table every time they buy with us,” he said.

U.S., Japanese negotiators continue trade talks

iStock/Getty Images Plus impending handshake between U.S. and Japan negotiators

by Yuko Takeo

U.S. and Japanese negotiators began a second round of trade talks in Washington on Thursday as they aim to secure a speedy deal focused on agriculture and vehicles.

Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, while Finance Minister Taro Aso is holding a separate discussion with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, which is expected to touch on currencies. On Friday, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to meet President Donald Trump in Washington.

The U.S. is pushing to reduce its trade deficit with Japan and gain better access to the Asian nation’s agriculture market. For its part, Japan is looking for a concrete promise that it won’t be hit by possible U.S. tariffs on autos imports, similar to duties imposed by the Trump administration last year on steel and aluminum on national security grounds.

Motegi said last week, during the first round of negotiations, that the sides are aiming for an “early” agreement. “I’d like to also have fruitful discussions today,” he said on Thursday afternoon as he headed into talks with Lighthizer.

U.S. farmers are also agitating for a quick resolution. Almost 90 agricultural organizations said in a letter to Lighthizer this week that U.S. agricultural products are losing ground after Japan cut tariffs for a second time on products from the European Union and some Asia-Pacific nations.

After Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership soon after his inauguration, the 11 other members including Japan went ahead without the U.S. to forge a successor deal called the CPTPP. U.S. farmers say they’ve been left at a disadvantage by that pact, and another that Abe struck in 2018 with the European Union.

--With assistance from Emi Urabe and Jenny Leonard.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yuko Takeo in Tokyo at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brett Miller at [email protected] Sarah McGregor, Andrew Mayeda

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P

Walmart ups the ante in the retail beef market

Burt Rutherford Angus steer on feed

Go to relentles.com and where does it take you? To the Amazon website.

Amazon shook the retail grocery business when it purchased Whole Foods. Mega-grocery store chains have been trying to adjust to the significant competitive threat ever since.

Perhaps Walmart has. While the move initially will up Walmart’s ante in the Southeast in retail beef marketing, the questions is this: How soon does the retail giant plan on taking the program nationwide?

Below are two news releases explaining Walmart’s entry into not just the beef business, but the cattle business.

 

Walmart, the nation’s largest grocer, announced its entry into the beef industry, developing an end-to-end supply chain for Angus beef.

The retailer has been diligently working to improve the quality of its food offering with the company’s fresh division and meat department at the forefront of this effort. To ensure supply of quality Angus beef and to meet customer demand for a more transparent supply chain, Walmart is working with best-in-class partners including Texas rancher Bob McClaren of Prime Pursuits.

“As clean labels, traceability and transparency become more and more important to customers, we’ve made plans to enter into the beef industry creating an unmatched system that allows us to deliver consistent quality and value,” said Scott Neal, senior vice president, Meat, Walmart U.S. “By enlisting a number of best-in-class companies to take part in the supply chain, we’ll be able to provide customers with unprecedented quality, provide transparency throughout the supply chain and leverage the learnings we gain across our business.”

A selection of Angus beef cuts like steaks and roasts from this supply chain will be sold in 500 Walmart stores across a number of states in the southeast including Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

The retailer’s new supply chain effort will create a steady demand for ranchers and feedyards offering stability in the marketplace. In addition, more than 250 jobs will be created in Kansas at Creekstone Farms’ beef processing facility with another 200 plus jobs in Georgia where the retailer owns a case-ready facility that will be run by FPL Food.

“No bigger paradigm change has taken place in the beef industry than what is happening with Walmart bringing truly high-quality, all-natural, no-hormones-added Black Angus beef to its customers. This bold vision gives Walmart a special place at the table by contributing to the most enjoyable and memorable moments in the lives of its customers,” said McClaren.

“It’s been four generations since we began, yet the traditional values of the McClaren family and 44 Farms are as relevant today as they were more than a century ago.”

“Walmart has listened to its hard-working customers and taken on the monumental task of providing steakhouse quality, natural Black Angus beef to their local stores. This bold vision will not only elevate backyard barbeques and family dinner tables across the country, but transform the entire supply chain,” said Hank McWhorter of Mc6 Cattle Feeders. “Mc6 Cattle Feeders is honored to help make this vision a reality. Mc6 is a family business that has been feeding and raising cattle on the same land in the Texas Panhandle for four generations.”

Creekstone President and CEO Satoru Oura noted “Creekstone welcomes the opportunity to partner with industry leaders in providing premium quality Black Angus beef to Walmart customers while, at the same time, growing the number of jobs at our state-of-the-art facility.”

“Walmart’s ever-growing command presence in retail paints an optimistic future, one that proves beneficial for many involved,” said Francois Leger, president and CEO of FPL Food. “In addition to FPL employees, this will provide many opportunities for the agriculture community to include farmers, ranchers and cattlemen alike. The positive impact will be felt by many.”

 

Why Walmart is entering the beef industry

By Scott Neal, SVP Meat

As we get closer to summer grilling season, backyard barbecuers are gearing up to serve hamburgers, steaks and kebabs to family and friends. You likely don’t remember your last great piece of chicken, but when you’re talking about a mesquite masterpiece, beef is the main event.

That’s why here at Walmart, we are working to make the beef America eats better. To us that means more transparency. Customers want freshness and affordability, but they also want to know what’s in their food and where it comes from.

To answer our customer’s demands, we need visibility into every step in the supply chain. So, we’re working with best-in-class suppliers to create an end-to-end Angus beef supply chain:
Bob McClaren of 44 Farms and Prime Pursuits is helping us source cattle raised on family farms and ranches.We are also working with Mc6 Cattle Feeders to feed them. Creekstone Farms will process the cattle at their facility, where more than 250 jobs will be created. FPL Foods will operate our case ready packing facility, where the meat gets packaged and sent to our stores, creating an additional 200 plus jobs.

Beef is an important purchase for our customer… it’s likely the most expensive item on their plate and they are treating themselves when they buy it. Creating this supply chain allows us to treat our customers by giving them unprecedented quality and transparency.

Our customers can trust that what they pick up from our meat department will be among the best – and most delicious – meat they can get. Having visibility to the end-to-end process lets us know we are helping our customers bring a consistently great piece of meat to their table every time they buy with us.

We’re proud this supply chain program will help with job creation, and we’re proud to work alongside companies with a strong history in the industry. Together, our beef program can truly change the dynamics of the beef industry.

Source: Walmartwhich is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

 

China trade negotiations complex, but nearing a win

narvikk / Getty Images Decisions being made on China-U.S. trade agreement

President Trump and President Xi originally set a deadline of 90 days to finish their trade deal. That would have been March 31. In spite of missing that deadline, negotiators have made serious progress. And they now have a new de-facto deadline. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said just days ago that the parties are “getting close to the final round of concluding issues” in the China talks. 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mnuchin are scheduled to travel to Beijing the last days of April. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is set to be in Washington the first full week in May. If a deal could be reached in early May, that would allow a couple of weeks of text wrap-up and legal finalizing before a signing summit the end of May or early June.

Mnuchin added that both sides have agreed on “real enforcement on both sides.” That includes detailed enforcement offices with serious budgets. 

He also confirmed that agreement had been reached on preventing currency manipulation, similar to the one in the USMCA. In early April, China agreed to another purchase of soybeans, some 800,000 metric tons, and agreed to more closely monitor and limit exporting of fentanyl, the former move likely being a negotiating sweetener and the latter in response to a U.S. request.

One of the most difficult issues left to settle involves China’s subsidies for certain companies and industries, a practice quite ingrained in the country’s economy.

How and when the U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports will be removed is another sticky area. China wants them removed right away and the U.S. wants to use at least some of them to ensure China implements what it has promised. They seem to be flexible on the latest round of tariffs--10% tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods -- but the administration wants to retain the initial 25% tariffs on $50 billion worth of goods as leverage.

 The U.S. tarriffs on $250 billion worth of goods is roughly half of all Chinese imports into the U.S. China has imposed tariffs on $110 billion worth of goods exported from the U.S. to China, about 90% of the total.

Negotiators have reported that the currency provisions agreed upon utilize the transparency of activities that move currencies. China has traditionally not reported currency market activity or foreign exchange reserves information. Penalties for violations are supposedly part of the deal, including tariffs. 

The currency provisions are meant to prevent a country from manipulating its currency to favor exports over imports, which can end up negating the impact of a trade deal (“Pact Hems Beijing Currency Moves,” Wall Street Journal, 04/13-14/19).

The WSJ  story, for the first time we’ve seen, quoted Fred Bergsten as indicating the U.S.-China pact could be structured as an “executive agreement,” rather than a free trade agreement. That would mean the deal wouldn’t have to be submitted to Congress for ratification. Bergsten is co-founder of the respected Peterson Institute for International Economics and a former senior Treasury official.

In mid-March, Chinese hastily added provisions to a foreign investment bill regulating technology transfers or theft of intellectual property. The bill was later passed, barring officials from leaking corporate secrets and provide for criminal prosecution for violations. Foreign companies often have to appear before “conformity assessment” committees, where most of the mining of useful information was gathered and then passed on to competing Chinese companies.

However, several experts said the new law is really re-stating current policy.

The China Law Blog” warns that this law does not address the real problem: China’s layers of government regulation requiring businesses to buy only products manufactured in China, (“China’s New Foreign Investment Law and Forced Technology Transfer: Same As It Ever Was,” China Law Blog, 03/21/19).

Factors affecting China’s negotiating headroom include things like its giant debt, its coal-fired power grid, the Chinese appetite for pork and its need to salve the feelings of countries feeling the burden of debt for loans from China under the One Belt One Road project.

Chinese officials have scaled back their estimates on the country’s growth this year to around 6%, from the nearer 6.5% pace indicated earlier.

To keep growth from slowing too quickly, the government is using more deficit spending, tax cuts and easier credit policies. China’s total debt, including companies, central and local governments and households neared 250% of GDP by year end 2018, (“Beijing’s Stimulus Push Faces Limits,” Wall Street Journal, 03/18/19).

Most of China’s debt growth comes from state-owned companies and finance firms controlled by various levels of government. The governments often use the money for projects that are “politically appealing” but not always commercially viable, the story explained.

That means when the U.S. demands that China phase out state-owned firms, the government has the necessary power to do so but faces possible political fallout if they do.

China must decide how to manage a coal industry that supplies some 60% of electricity but is testing citizens’ patience with pollution. The power sector is $1.3 trillion in debt and not generating much more profit than interest payments.

Then there’s ASF

How much of a negotiation incentive the African Swine Fever (ASF) situation will put on the Chinese is hard to forecast. China’s National Bureau of Statistics was reporting the pig count down nearly 40 million (roughly 9.6%) the end of March, at 375 million, a two-decade low. The U.S. reported the Chinese had made the largest pork purchase in two years in March.

Interestingly, China’s Ministry of Agriculture said “pig stocks” were down 19% over a year earlier, more than the Bureau of Statistics numbers. The Ministry said pork prices have increase over 7% so far but they are expected to jump 70% in the second half (“Beijing Warns Pork Prices to Surge as Pig Population Falls,” Wall Street Journal, 4/18/19).

Prep your pastures now for when disasters strike

Cattle eating on pasture

With everything from hurricanes and drought to this year’s spring flooding and late season “bomb cyclone” blizzards, managing for potential natural disasters is simply part of the production plans for many producers.

That’s especially true in the semi-arid and drought-prone Texas Panhandle. James Henderson, part of the Bradley 3 Ranch near Childress, Texas, knows that well-managed grasses can help pastures withstand drought. He was one of the speakers at the School of Successful Ranching sessions at the annual Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Convention in March.

Childress is located in the semi-arid Southwest. The overall region saw drought from much of 2010 through 2014. It hit many producers hard; more than 1 million cows were liquidated.

Henderson said a system of rotating cattle from native grasses to improved grasses helped facilitate a detailed rotational grazing program, as well as survive drought condition in the southern Texas Panhandle region.

“Our native grasses include gramas and tall grasses,” he said. “All of our cows go to native grasses in the fall and will remain there until we move them to summer grasses. There’s not a set rotational grazing. We just visualize what needs to be done.”

Old World bluestem is among the summer forages added to pastures. “On these improved grasses, we’ll run our entire cowherd until we wean calves,” Henderson said.

“Depending on the size of a particular pasture, we’ll rotate them from every three days to every 10 days. We look at it every day. And the cows know. If the cows are ready to move, they’ll be standing at the gate bawling.”

“We try to grow grasses to ‘stirrup tall’ to help build a deep root system,” Henderson said. “If we can get our roots down 3 feet, our grasses can survive anything. During the 2010-2011 drought period, those grasses survived.”

Henderson said plenty of water storage tanks and ponds are needed to keep a steady rotational system going. And continued movement of cattle is also needed to assure weeds can be controlled.

Hurricanes don’t help

While extreme drought requires extra management to rotate pastures, tropical storms present different types of problems. Hurricane Harvey swamped the Texas Gulf Coast the fall of 2017. It flooded pastures and isolated thousands of cattle. Many didn’t survive.

Stephen Diebel of Diebel Cattle Co. in Victoria, Texas, was in the middle of the massive storm. He has a fitting analogy of grazing cattle – “grazing is more of an art than a science.”

Diebel’s pastures consist of about 60% native grasses and 40% improved grasses. They provide forage for the ranch’s commercial cow-calf operation and an intensive stocker cattle program.

As with the drought area of West Texas, water is the key for the coastal region, which typically receives much more rainfall year-round, but can face extended dry periods as well. Diebel said strategically placed water sources allow for timely rotational grazing.

“We know that cattle usually don’t go outside of a quarter of a mile for water,” he said. “Wells powered by windmills have been our traditional sources of water throughout our pastures.”

Several solar units were installed about five years ago to help offset the need for potential windmill repairs and delays in getting water to cattle. When Hurricane Harvey hit, windmills suffered heavy damage. Repairs took time. The solar units served their purpose and kept water flowing.

Diebel said the ranch installed more solar units to drive pumps the past few years. A pipeline water delivery system was also installed to help assure water delivery was sufficient for the rotational grazing program, as well as for wildlife on the ranch.

As for solar system maintenance, Diebel said, “No repairs have been needed for units five years old.”

What’s up with yield grades?

Nevil Speer Yield Grade Trends over time versus Quality Grades

Last week’s Industry At A Glance focused on quality grade trends over time. The column noted that, “Quality grading has been nothing short of phenomenal thus far in 2019. That’s somewhat surprising given the harsh weather and pen conditions during the past several months. Nevertheless, in the middle of March the percentage of Prime surpassed 10% of the total slaughter mix. That’s an extra 1.5% versus this time last year.”

The discussion stemmed from a reader asking about the proportion of the slaughter mix that actually gets quality graded. As outlined in that column, the proportion of the slaughter mix being assigned a USDA quality grade has remained fairly steady at just slightly above 95%. Meanwhile, the share of Prime and Choice carcasses continues to climb, with the 12-month moving average now above 80%.

This week’s graph looks on the other side of the coin – yield grades (YG). There we find a different story. 

Nevil SpeerYield Grade Trends over time versus Quality Grades

The industry currently assigns yield grades to just north of one-fourth of the slaughter mix versus 95% for quality grades. Meanwhile, during the past year, the average proportion of YG 4s and YG 5s is running at roughly12%. Those are the carcasses that carry the most fat.

The inherent question that follows: Why are so few cattle yield graded versus quality graded? For the marketplace, yield grade matters far less in the value equation.  

First, it doesn’t cost much more in terms of labor to fab a YG 4 or 5 carcass versus a leaner YG 1 to 3 carcass. Accordingly, the carcass discount for YG 4s and YG 5s has remained remarkably constant and actually declined slightly over the past 10 years. 

As such, from a producer perspective, as a percentage of total carcass value as cutout values increase, yield grade discounts have become incrementally less punitive. Lastly,  the vast majority of certified beef programs either have no yield grade requirement or very lenient fat limits. In other words, quality grade is the primary driver in the marketplace for certified programs. 

What’s your perception of the quality grade versus yield grade trends in the beef industry? What changes have you made and/or are making to adapt to the changing beef market environment?

Speer serves as an industry consultant and is based in Bowling Green, Ky. Contact him at [email protected]

EAT-Lancet Commission Report: Does it reflect reality?

Burt Rutherford Full grown steers in a feedlot

By Stephen B. Smith

In early 2019, The Lancet published Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Commission’s report recognizes that current agricultural practices cannot sustain future overpopulation.

The report provides a review of the meta-analyses that have been conducted over the last several years that examined the relationship between intakes of specific foods and risk for cardiovascular disease and all-risk mortality. The report states that “healthy diets” should have an appropriate caloric intake but goes on to suggest low amounts of animal-source foods, one of the most nutrient-dense foods available.

In this sense, the Commission has used meta-analyses to prescribe: 1) diets optimal for human health; and 2) the sustainability of crop and animal agriculture.

The projected increase in world population by 2050 probably will exceed the capacity of arable land to produce food, but the report seems to ignore that urbanization and subsequent encroachment of farmlands is a major loss of arable land.

The report suggests no additional land use for food production but ignores the concentration of resources in commercial finishing systems (poultry, pork, and beef). This is termed “factory farming” by social media, which has a negative connotation but has contributed substantially to a reduction in land mass necessary to produce livestock and poultry.

The Commission, based on its evaluation of metanalyses of diet and mortality, recommends a greater than 50% reduction in “unhealthy foods,” meaning red meat and sugar. The Commission was prescriptive in its recommendation for the intake of beef and lamb (7 grams per day, or approximately ¼ ounce) and pork (also 7 grams per day) to improve human health and sustainability of food production.

However, U.S. per capita sugar consumption has increased from approximately 40 pounds per year to over 120 pounds per year in the last 50 years. During this period, obesity increased from approximately 14% of the U.S. population to over 35% of the population.

Correspondingly, percent calories from carbohydrates (simple and complex) in the U.S. diet increased from 42% to over 50% over this period. Percent calories from protein declined slightly whereas percent calories from fat (oils and animal fats) declined from 38% to 30%.

Most of the reduction in percent calories from fat was caused by a decrease in the intake of animal fats. Between and 1968 and 2018, per capita red meat consumption in the U.S. has fallen from 145 pounds per year to 109 pounds per year.

Declining beef consumption represents most of the decrease in per capita red meat consumption (from 82 pounds per year to 57 pounds per year).

In the light of decreasing red meat consumption but increasing obesity in the U.S., it would seem unreasonable to blame red meat consumption on obesity and related diseases such as inflammation and type II diabetes. In fact, in 2017 Lancet published a comprehensive study that documented even small intakes of fat (including saturated fats) strongly reduced total mortality and major cardiovascular disease (Lancet. 2017, 390:2050-2062).

Figure 2 of the Commission’s report indicates that currently over 75% of greenhouse gasses come from fossil fuels and cement. They project that food production will be the largest cause of global environmental change beyond 2050 based on the assumption that greenhouse gasses from fossil fuels and cement will decline by approximately 80% in the next 30 years.

The Commission states that “Analyses also propose a global transition to clean energy by 2020, bringing emissions from energy use in all [energy] sectors to near zero.” The assumption of a global transition of clean energy in the next 30 years supports their argument that agriculture will the primary source of greenhouse gasses in the future but seems unrealistic at best.

If the world population increases to 10 billion by 2050, some countries almost certainly will experience food shortage and possibly (and more importantly) a shortage in potable water. In many developed countries there currently is an explosion in the incidence of obesity and health-related diseases in all socioeconomic groups – food in these countries is plentiful and inexpensive.

The report correctly identifies food waste and a major problem but links it to “healthy diets from sustainable systems.” Overly large restaurant and home servings certainly are linked to food waste and obesity; source of the food is not.

In the face of future global food shortages, it would be more logical and much more effective to change tactics. Instead of (or at least in addition to) prescribing what people should eat, we should be telling them to eat less – much less.

Smith is regents professor and faculty fellow in the Department of Animal Science, Texas AgriLife Research.

The mineral supplementation predicament on pasture

Jacqueline Nix-Getty Images Cattle licking mineral block
Beef producers with pastured cattle may find it tempting to cut back on mineral in hard times, despite good data showing soils are increasingly biologically depleted.

Mineral deficiencies are extremely common on pasture across the U.S., yet it's common for your clients to cut back on mineral when times get tough.

Further, the plethora of mineral supplements seem to muddy the waters for some beef producers.

A few months back the BEEF Vet story "Mineral supplement can have a big return on investment" explained diagnostic laboratory data from across the nation showed 60% or more of cattle may suffer copper deficiencies, another 10% to 70% can have selenium deficiencies depending on location, and problems with vitamins E and A and zinc can be quite common in drought situations or late in dormant-season pastures.

Recently, Britt Hicks, area extension livestock specialist for the Oklahoma Panhandle Research and Extension Center at Goodwell, Oklahoma, noted copper and zinc deficiencies are quite common in his region. He said among 1,113 forage samples collected over several years in Oklahoma and Texas only 14.6% provided adequate zinc and 39.4% were adequate in copper.

Yet at times the issue can appear confusing when looking at research trials. For example, a 2018 trial in Kansas examined providing stocker cattle on grass with salt blocks alone, or salt blocks with injectible multi-mineral supplement, or salt blocks with a Kansas State University complete mineral. The choice of salt blocks alone versus a combination of salt and mineral is common in the Kansas Flint Hills. The researchers found no difference in average daily gain between the three treatments.

The likely explanation is the cattle were in adequate supply of the major minerals that affect performance prior to this 90-day trial.

The relationship is a little more clear in a 2018 Nebraska trial examining the effects of injectible trace minerals (ITM) on artificial insemination success, researchers found cattle with adequate mineral status did not benefit from the injectible minerals administered at CIDR insertion, while those with inadequate mineral levels did benefit from the injectible minerals by showing an improved conception rate.

The Nebraska trial was a follow-up to previous studies showing mixed results. Conception to fixed-time AI was greater in ITM cows when compared with saline-treated cows (Mundell et al., 2012). A more recent study showed no differences in reproductive performance of feedlot-developed heifers given an ITM 30 days before the breeding season when adequate concentrations of trace mineral were provided in the diet (Willmore et al., 2015).

Ultimately, all the data shows the need for adequate mineral supplementation for all cattle, all the time, Hicks says. He adds that you should help your producers recognize the role minerals play in good health as well as in fertility and growth.

"Cutting minerals out of a feeding program may reduce cost in the short term but will reduce returns and effectively increase cost over the long term," Hicks says.