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Articles from 2020 In June


Virtual Prime Time Gala raises funds for food banks

South Dakota Cattlemen's Foundation PTGcheck2020.jpg

It’s hard to believe that July is already here, and in six weeks or so, many schools are scheduled to reopen for the 2020-21 year.

While there are many uncertainties that lie ahead regarding mask-wearing, social distancing and how to keep our kids safe with a novel virus and violent riots to worry about, the good news is that hopefully our children will be well nourished and more connected to their food than ever before.

That’s all thanks to the $12.1 million in grants awarded by the USDA for Farm to School programs. In case you missed it, I shared news about this yesterday with details about the 159 Farm to School programs that were recipients of these funds.

In that blog, I also promised to highlight the incredible work that the ranching community is doing to alleviate hunger, assist our most vulnerable and ensure that children in need, along with their families, have access to protein-rich foods like beef.

Last week, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation (SDCF) hosted the Virtual Prime Time Gala, which raised funds to donate to Feeding South Dakota.

This year’s check totaled $285,109 and will be used by Feeding South Dakota to purchase beef for the state’s food banks.

“We are so incredibly grateful to the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation for their hard work and dedication to continue to raise critical funds to provide beef protein to feed South Dakotans in need, especially during this pandemic,” said Matt Gassen, CEO of Feeding South Dakota.

Although the event couldn’t take place in person due to COVID-19 concerns, event sponsors, industry partners, donors and volunteers gathered to host the virtual event and raise money for this important cause.

The money and the beef it provides are critical because, according to the SDCF, “Of the 12.8 million pounds of food that Feeding South Dakota distributes on an annual basis to all 66 counties in our state, only about 10% of that is protein. High quality protein, like beef, plays an important role in overall health, including weight control, by increasing satiety and helping to build and maintain muscle mass.”

According to the SDCF, “Throughout the event and in the week leading up to the event, guests were able to bid on auction items virtually. One of those auction items was an original bronze sculpture by Benjamin Victor that sold for $26,000 to Werning Cattle, RJ Cattle and Double Bar D Farms. The sculpture is a replica of the purebred Simmental ‘Bankroll’ bull.

“Also, the Billion Chevrolet of Sioux Falls truck raffle drawing was held later in the evening. Exactly 1,000 tickets were sold this year for a chance to win a 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 Duramax Crew Cab 4WD LT. The lucky winner of the truck was Sean Wadman of Amery, Wis.”

Ryan Eichler, SDCF president, said, “The South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation is humbled by the generosity and support of the beef industry and associated businesses in our state. During what could be considered the toughest time in a generation, individuals and businesses donated more resources to bring protein to families across our state who simply can’t afford it.

“Our organization exists to facilitate this generosity and we’re so proud of the people we represent. These funds will not only secure much-needed beef for Feeding South Dakota’s programs, but will also provide educational opportunities for our industry’s future leaders. We are overwhelmed with the success of this year’s Virtual Prime Time Gala and can’t wait to see everyone in person at next year’s event.”

The 2021 event is already slated for June 19, with Little Big Town to perform. For more information on this incredible event, click here.

Our industry has many feel-good stories just like this one that I would love to share. If you could, please forward information about the great people doing great things in your communities, and I will be happy to spread the word on this blog.

This year may be challenging for many, but our hearts are still in the right place. These stories need to be told to allow consumers to see that it’s not just beef we are producing, but our efforts also support communities, main street businesses and vulnerable populations, as well.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

Fed Cattle Recap | Cash prices continue to falter

Fed Cattle Recap

The cattle market continues to adjust to the changing dynamics both here and abroad. With packing plants running at near capacity and wholesale prices continuing to erode, the beef pipeline is full. Reports indicate great product movement for Father’s Day. The July 4 holiday is this weekend, another bright spot in beef demand.

But the dog days of summer are upon us. If you’re tired of hearing about the burdensome backlog of long-fed cattle, take a deep breath because it may well be 2021 before we work through all those heavyweight cattle. The market will continue to struggle as it finds price levels necessary to keep beef moving.

The Five Area formula sales volume for the week ending June 27 totaled 247,951 head, compared with about 234,000 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 75,555 head, compared to about  97,000 head the previous week. 

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 42,000 head for the week. The nationally reported 15- to 30-day delivery was 2,459 head along with 14,198 head the previous week. 

Now looking at prices, the weekly weighted average cash steer price for the week ending June 27 for the Five Area region was $96.21 per cwt, $4.57 lower compared with the previous week. The same week last year, it was $110.13 which was about steady with the week prior. The current Five Area weighted average live formula price was $105.43 for the week.

The weighted average cash dressed steer price was $154.78 per cwt, which was $5.92 lower. The Five Area weighted average formula price was $167.58, which was $9.18 lower.

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest for the week ending June 27 was 680,000 head, which compares with 670,000 head the same week last year. Running a Saturday shift was the key to getting harvest numbers back to and even above normal.  

The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending June 13 was 896 pounds, 4 pounds higher than the previous week and still significantly higher than a year ago, when weights came in at 849 pounds. That was 3 pounds higher compared to the previous week last year.  

The Choice-Select spread was $8.32 on Friday, June 26, compared with $9.81 the previous week and a $24.10 spread last year. 

 

Farm Progress America, June 30, 2020

Max Armstrong looks at a continued food supply challenge due to COVID-19 – a shortage of butter. Beth Ford, CEO, Land O'Lakes, shares how the changing demand picture in the grocery store has even reduced the varieties of butter the cooperative produces. Ford shares that they've not been able to store butter for the winter. And this year's sales will hit a new record.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: slobo/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Integrated pest management key to fly control in cattle

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Cattle often stop grazing and bunch up in corners to fight flies.

Horn flies, face flies and stable flies are the most common and most treated pests on livestock operations, and North Dakota State University (NDSU) extension livestock systems specialist Janna Block said these pests can cause significant losses in cattle production if left untreated.

“Irritation caused by flies leads to behavior changes and can reduce the amount of time spent grazing, which can result in weight loss and decreased milk production. Additionally, flies are a factor in the transmission of diseases such as keratoconjunctivitis (pinkeye) and summer mastitis,” said Block, who is based at the NDSU Hettinger Research Extension Center.

While integrated pest management is commonplace for controlling crop pests, similar concepts can apply to controlling livestock pests, she said. They include using the right type of control at the right time for the right duration to control pests effectively.

Timing is important

“Many livestock producers apply pest control prior to pasture turnout, which may be optimal for control of some pests, but not others,” NDSU extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist Miranda Meehan noted. “The first step to determining when to apply control is to properly scout pastures and cattle to determine fly type and fly populations.”

Horn flies are gray and are about half the size of a housefly. Horn flies bite and spend most of their time clustered around the head, shoulders and back of cattle. These blood-sucking flies feed up to 20-30 times per day. This constant biting causes cattle pain and stress, and can reduce cattle weight gain by as much as 20 lb., the specialists said.

When fly counts reach 200 flies per animal, the economic threshold has been reached, and animals will have significant weight loss. The economic threshold is the pest density at which producers should take action to manage the pest.

Face flies look like large, dark house flies. They are non-biting flies that feed on animal secretions, plant nectar and manure liquids. Face flies may transmit pathogens responsible for infecting the eye and causing pinkeye in cattle.

The life cycle of a face fly is approximately 21 days. Populations tend to peak in late summer. Because of the extreme irritation these flies cause, small populations can do a lot of damage. An average of 12-14 flies can reduce grazing time by an hour a day, and when populations reach more than 20, animals will bunch up and/or move into shaded areas.

Horn and face flies typically are not present at pasture turnout and do not reach economic thresholds for applying control until midsummer, the specialists said. However, populations in some areas may be peaking earlier than usual due to mild winter weather conditions and/or early moisture.

Stable flies are similar in size to house flies but have circular markings that distinguish them from horn flies. In addition, these flies bite on the abdomen and legs, feed on blood and are very disruptive to cattle grazing. They breed on organic matter.

“The only method to control adult (stable fly) populations is weekly application of insecticide sprays,” NDSU extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist Gerald Stokka said. “The best way to reduce stable fly populations is through habitat control measures such as cleaning feed grounds and keeping barns clean and dry.”

Variety of controls

A variety of tools can be used for fly control, including insecticide ear tags and strips, sprays and pour-ons, insect growth regulators (IGRs), dust bags or back rubbers, NDSU said.

Ear tags contain insecticides that are released slowly into the animal’s hair by movement, so ear tags should not be applied until fly populations are nearing the economic threshold (typically from mid-June to July). Read insecticide labels carefully, because recommendations can vary for the number of tags to apply (one or two), the age of cattle that can be tagged and the chemical class of active ingredient (pyrethroid, organophosphate or a combination). Research shows that horn flies typically target adult animals and that tagging calves is unnecessary.

Stokka recommended rotating the class of insecticide each year and removing tags when they no longer provide effective fly control to help prevent flies from becoming resistant to the insecticides.

“Controlling face flies can be challenging because flies spend a lot of time away from the animal,” Block noted. “Dust bags and insecticide ear tags are recommended treatments for these pests. However, unlike when treating for horn flies, both cows and calves should be treated for face flies.”

To achieve proper fly control, pour-ons and sprays must be applied every two to three weeks throughout the fly season. Applying these products before pasture turnout likely will not be an effective fly control method.

“Additionally, all avermectin pour-ons and injectables may provide up to several weeks of fly control but are more important for controlling internal parasites and should be administered at the proper timing and dosage to meet that objective,” Stokka said.

Feed additive insecticides can be included in mineral formulations for cattle, the specialists said. The additives pass through the animals’ digestive system and destroy the developing horn fly maggots in the manure. These additives are effective in killing 80-90% of the developing fly larvae in animals that have consumed the product.

Feed additives should be offered at least 30 days prior to fly emergence. Proper intake of these products is extremely important for optimum control. Continuous use of these products may speed up resistance in the fly populations.

Dust bags and back rubbers contain insecticides that treat livestock through direct contact. These are typically inexpensive; however, they will have the best control when placed where cattle are forced to use them consistently. Ideally, they should be placed near water or mineral supplements, which can be challenging, depending on pasture size and other characteristics.

Non-chemical methods of control include fly traps, parasitic wasps and habitat control practices such as using rotational grazing to help distribute manure. As with the other control methods, producers need to watch for economic thresholds and determine what control measure will work best in their operation, NDSU said.

When applying any type of pest control, be sure to read the label carefully prior to application. Monitoring populations to see if the product is achieving the desired level of control also is important, the specialists advised, noting that if a product is not effective, the fly population may have developed a resistance to that type of insecticide and another method and/or product should be used.

“Pest control can be costly,” Meehan said. “Producers can reduce costs by following principles of integrated pest management and applying the appropriate products at the appropriate time for the appropriate control of pest populations.”

USDA awards $12.1 million in record Farm to School grants

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The Made In America movement continues to gain momentum with the Trump Administration’s announcement to award $12.1 million in Farm to School grants.

This is the most awarded since the grant program’s inception, with 159 programs receiving funds.

The Farm to School grants are administered by the USDA, and the goal is to use these funds to bring fresh, local foods into schools, daycares and summer youth programs in the upcoming school year while also supporting economic opportunities for America’s farmers and ranchers.

“USDA’s Farm to School Program is a win-win,” said Brandon Lipps, USDA’s deputy under secretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services. “The grants announced today will help build bright futures for our children by connecting them to where their food comes from, while also nourishing the local economy and supporting American agriculture.”

According to a USDA press release, “USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) awarded grants of between $20,000 and $100,000 to projects in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. Grantees represent the wide diversity of partners involved in farm to school efforts, including agricultural producers, tribal nations, non-profits, state agencies, and schools spanning both rural and urban areas.

“To help target funds to high-impact projects, FNS awarded bonus points to applications serving schools with a high population of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals; submitted by or serving tribal nations; and located in or targeting an Opportunity Zone, a census tract designation for low-income communities. In all, the projects will serve more than 7,610 schools and 2.5 million students, more than half of whom are eligible for free or reduced priced meals.”

Examples of how these grants will be used include a mobile farmers market for kids at urban elementary schools in Minnesota; an afterschool summer garden program in California; a marketing campaign to help build relationships between producers and educators in West Virginia; and providing bison and beef to the reservations in South Dakota, just as a few examples.

To read more about projects happening in your state, click here.

According to the USDA, “Our mission is to increase food security and reduce hunger by providing children and low-income people access to food, a healthful diet and nutrition education in a way that supports American agriculture and inspires public confidence.”

I think that’s a mission we can all get behind, and in an upcoming blog, I’ll share details about a private initiative that seeks to accomplish this goal, as well.

As a side note, even as USDA works to support the Farm to School movement, there is great uncertainty about what schools will look like in the fall as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent Politico poll of 2,000 voters revealed that 54% of Americans are uncomfortable with reopening K-12 schools in the fall; 58% of those polled said they were uncomfortable with daycare centers reopening; and 48% were uncertain that colleges and universities should reopen.

In May, President Trump tweeted, “Schools in our country should be opened ASAP.”

Time will tell how this will play out state by state, but it’s nice knowing that there will be a strong agriculture and food component to these educational institutions once things settle back into a new routine this fall.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

DGAC draft report viewed as flawed by many

fcafotodigital / Getty Images Dietary Guidelines

Any account of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) activities can only hit main trends and concerns. As previous articles in BEEF Daily and Cow-Calf Weekly have indicated, many are concerned that the DGAC has not carried out its duties properly in considering changes to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are updated every five years.

Interestingly enough, with five years between Guidelines reports, one of the main concerns from expert observers and from some DGAC members has been the lack of time to properly analyze and digest the data. The coronavirus didn’t help but the volume of data—not including many studies the committee did not review, refused to study or studied on the sly and did not acknowledge, has a lot to do with the situation.

Committee concerns

The committee didn’t mention the recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine study commissioned by Congress after the last widely criticized 2015 Dietary Guidelines. It recommended that the selection and evaluation of studies, as well as the suggestion of topics, be handled by a totally separate, specially qualified panel. 

That advice was ignored by USDA-HHS and would have helped alleviate the time crunch, the quality and evaluation of research attacked by professionals and nutrition associations, the omission of categories of study, the lack of transparency in process and conclusion and the credibility questions about the report.

Several influential groups and hundreds of professionals have expressed their opinion to USDA-HHS that the final report of the 2020 DGAC should be delayed until various questions regarding process, transparency and conclusions are more thoroughly examined. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) also sent a letter to the agencies questioning the process. He is ranking member of a House Agriculture nutrition subcommittee.

The final committee public meeting was held in June just one week after public comments on the draft report were due. Meaning committee members had likely not read the last 10,000 to 20,000 comments, many of which dealt with that draft report. Over 60,000 total comments were filed.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a group representing over 100,000 nutrition professionals, filed comments critical of the process of the DGAC, including the failure to “transparently report the committee’s reason for exclusion of certain studies.” They added that “…it is not acceptable that parts of methodology that would be essential in a written scientific paper are not part of the open information.” 

The group also held that the public’s trust in the evidence would be compromised without more clarity and research. The Nutrition Coalition sifted through comments like those, sent a letter and filed comments on other critical aspects of the Report. Nina Teicholz is executive director of that group.

Over 300 Ph.D.s, doctors and other nutrition professionals signed a letter to USDA-HHS regarding process issues and allegations regarding process by committee members. They requested steps to bolster the credibility of the guidelines, such as better grounding of the guidelines in scientific methodology and inclusion of all the relevant evidence.

Crossover proteins

These questions about a less-than-stellar process might well have bearing on other issues of concern to animal protein producers, a term I had not heard surface during the final all-day hearing. Meat and regular dairy products were referred to as “crossover” dietary components, meaning they showed up on both the charts showing beneficial effects and those on detrimental effects on health. 

It also took prodding from one of the DGAC members to elucidate that the term “lean meat” meant different meats in some studies than others, could include red or processed meat or poultry but were not always specified in individual studies and were lumped together in the committee’s consideration.

Crossover foods were on the committee’s list for “further study.”

The professionals I asked were as surprised as I was that dietary cholesterol showed up in the report at all, as that was not on the list of agreed-upon topics. And the 2015 DGAC had pretty well dismissed dietary cholesterol as a concern, with Alice Lichtenstein, vice chairwoman of that committee, commenting that the data had never supported limits on cholesterol consumption or the link to blood cholesterol levels. 

Dr. Ronald Krauss, an American Heart Association fellow, committee member and spokesman, said the few hyper-responders to dietary cholesterol did not justify restrictions for the whole population, the New York Times reported in 2015. Nevertheless, the 2020 draft guidelines gave considerable attention to limiting cholesterol consumption and claimed “strong” evidence for such.

“Diets lower in dietary cholesterol may reduce total and LDL cholesterol,” the DGAC draft report said. But regarding cardiovascular disease, the report referred to a “small body of evidence on dietary cholesterol,” citing a need for “additional research” to isolate independent effects of dietary cholesterol. 

After 60 years of trying to prove a connection between dietary cholesterol and heart health, the “experts” are still short of evidence on any possible avenue of effect.

Weight loss limbo

The attitude of some 2020 committee members regarding overweight and obesity seems to conflict with the official position regarding what studies to include. The Committee said specifically that they excluded studies that involved weight loss or obesity. Yet several times in the draft report are references to recommendations that would influence weight gain or loss for Americans.

The exclusion of studies regarding weight loss are a primary bone of contention for a number of groups and lots of professionals, given that roughly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. The experts are very concerned that the guidelines do not acknowledge this reality. No specific weight loss dietary patterns are in the guidelines, nor acknowledgement of any role for low carbohydrate diets.

Then there is the saturated fat fight, one of the most vociferous battles between the DGAC and nutrition and health professionals. That battle, of course, affects the animal protein industry drastically because the efforts to reduce the percentage of saturated fat in the diet can be regarded as a back-door method of reducing the quantity of animal protein consumption. 

The committee recommends that “less than 10% of energy” should be from saturated fats. They referenced “strong and consistent evidence” from randomized controlled trials that replacing saturated fatty acids with unsaturated fats significantly reduces total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

That explains their resumption of the cholesterol question—it undergirds their recommendations on saturated fats. And there is no discussion of evidence that serum cholesterol has no real effect on coronary heart disease anyway.

A recently released State of the Art Review published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology said that saturated fat restrictions are not justified and reducing saturated fatty acids had no beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease and total mortality.

There is no word yet regarding any delay or revision of the final report.

Steve Dittmer is a longtime beef industry commentator and executive vice president of the Agribusiness Freedom Foundation. The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

How will the hotel and restaurant industries recover?

Alexander Shelegov / Getty Images Restaurants and other foodservice venues have a long, precarious road ahead

With the partial opening of dine-in at restaurants around the country, it is worth looking at just what the future holds for what has been the distribution channel for over half of this country’s beef production.

Of course, we know already that Hotel, Restaurant and Institutions (HRI) will not move that high of a percentage in 2020. With dine-in shut down for three months in most of the country and the major surge in retail sales, the annual split is nearly certain to change in 2020. The question is, how fast and how well will HRI recover for the rest of the year?

Two things about the summer season will affect beef consumption. There will be pent-up demand for travel, which will boost restaurant, airport and hotel use. Summer weather is boosting outdoor dining, which everyone assumes is safer. The public is tired of staying cooped up at home and growing doubts about the real value of the lockdown are on the rise.

While the big chains are more likely to have the resources to re-start or had the requisite financial staff to secure government help, some smaller chains and independents may have a very basic cash flow problem. Many restaurants are on a 30-day supply arrangement, wherein they have 30 days to pay for food after receipt to sell it and generate income. 

With no way to plan for nearly overnight closure notice from state authorities, much of that March food was either given away to food banks or thrown out. With suppliers not having been paid for that food, many are reluctant or refusing to re-supply restaurants that have not paid for March orders.

Some non-bank lenders to restaurants said they had shut down all credit lines for restaurants, knowing there has been little or no revenue. The National Restaurant Association estimated in June that at least 3% of operators had shut down permanently and it expected thousands more to follow. It estimated that restaurants lost $80 billion in sales in March and April.

One link up the chain, one of our major packer contacts expressed his concerns about moving product and getting paid for orders in March, when the crunch was new.

A recent trip through airports and big cities in the Northwest by relatives indicate that many restaurants are open for dine-in. Interestingly enough, it was the chain locations that were more likely to be still shuttered, indicating that the independents needed the cash flow and had found some way to stock inventory. Air flights are running 50% or more to capacity, although the total number of flights are reduced.

One advantage the beef industry has: most burger chains are already oriented for lots of drive-through business, are budget-friendly and set up for minimal human contact. They were in the right place at the right time. 

McDonald’s reported that while April’s sales were down 19%, May’s were only down 5%. That was with hardly any of its outlets open for dine-in.  Much of the decline was due to reduced breakfast business, which affects beef much less. People not going to work don’t need to grab a quick breakfast on the way.

Yum Brands, which includes KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, reported positive increases during the quarter ending in May.

Another bright spot has come from consumers adapting. McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other outlets and delivery services reported that the average fast food purchase amount increased 18% in April, according to Black Box Intelligence and 15% for casual dining chains. Families are purposely aiming for leftovers to cut down on trips.

McDonald’s responded to the shift by paring their menu down in order to speed up service times, cutting 24 seconds off the average.

Trying to stay in business

Once they figure out how to re-open, a big problem for most restaurants will be how to keep operating at non-profit levels because of mandated 25% or 50% capacity limitations. Requiring reservations will help them schedule labor better. Hopefully, they will be able to spread out the numbers better throughout the dining hours, as opposed to the big rush at certain hours of the day that boost numbers in normal times.

Some operators are definitely having difficulty getting staffers back, with some of them making more money staying at home than working, given the extra $600 per week in unemployment in the CARES Act. That is one more example of politicians not understanding how incentives work for humans and the unintended (?) consequences.

A visit to our favorite casual dining burger place was telling: the sounds from the kitchen area sounded like a party. Our deduction, confirmed by our happy server, was that these folks were glad to be back at work. We’re thinking some other servers and kitchen workers, with a longer-term view, will want to protect their jobs and their seniority by coming back to work.

Either way, the unemployment boon will end July 31, unless the Democrats can find a way to extend it. It would seem unlikely the Republicans would go along with that move, given the proof of some Republicans’ warning in the initial debate that this disincentive to work would have serious consequences.

It is worrisome that the warm weather states where many speculated hotter temperatures would hinder the virus’ spread have been the ones with higher recent case numbers.

Surveys about whether and when people are intending to go back to dine-in restaurants have varied widely. Our drive-around anecdotal research has shown most restaurant parking lots to be half–full to full, especially on weekend nights. Some of that is people parked for takeout. But predicting and polling on something like this is difficult.

The bottom line is nearly everyone has to eat every day. Part of the question for HRI will be: how tired of their own cooking will people be? How tired of looking at the same faces across the table will they be?

Steve Dittmer is a longtime beef industry commentator and executive vice president of the Agribusiness Freedom Foundation. The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

New consumer spending shows beef is best

Nevil Speer Consumer spending on beef

“Beef demand is the difference maker.” Last week’s column with that title noted that, “Demand makes a difference when it comes to sorting differences of inventory and price: better demand means better prices. Improved beef quality and consistency, in conjunction with ongoing education, research and promotion by the Beef Checkoff, is paying dividends over time.”

Along with last week’s data, that statement is best represented by a historical perspective of consumer spending patterns. The beef industry entered the 1980s under pressure due to a variety of factors such as perceived health and convenience issues. However, the most significant negative consumer perception was being driven by quality concerns and product inconsistency.    

The beef industry lost sight of what really matters when it comes to purchasing decisions. And they paid for it.

The net result was a huge gap in new spending. Between 1980 and 1998, pork and poultry continued to grow their business while spending on beef remained flat. The difference being pork and poultry combined to outgrow beef by $100 in new spending during the 80s and 90s.    

Then the beef sector woke up and got to work. The turnaround during the past 20 years is nothing short of remarkable.  

Nevil SpeerConsumer spending on beef

During that time beef has narrowed the gap – gaining $165 in new spending versus just $142 for pork and poultry combined. In other words, beef has gained market share during the past several decades. And even more important, demonstrated its ability to successfully capture new spending at an increasing rate. 

Establishing positive consumer experiences is essential to generating sustainable business models. And high-quality, differentiated beef products are accounting for an ever-larger portion of the beef industry’s total sales. In other words, decommoditizing the product and being responsive to consumer preferences has paid, and continues to pay, real dividends.

Consumers continue to increasingly reward the beef industry for those efforts with their dollars. And in the end, that’s the only measure of business success that matters.

Nevil Speer is based in Bowling Green, Ky. and serves as director of industry relations for Where Food Comes From (WFCF). The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of WFCF or its shareholders. He can be reached at nspeer@wherefoodcomesfrom.com. The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

Changing conditions cancel farm shows

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CHANGING CONDITIONS: With the rise of coronavirus, Farm Progress events management have elected to cancel its shows for 2020.

For more than 65 years, farmers have turned to the Farm Progress Show and Husker Harvest Days for the latest information about new products and tools they can use to boost productivity and profit for their operations. However, for the first time in its history, the show won't go on. In the best interest of our visitors, exhibitors, partners and staff, Farm Progress has made the difficult decision to cancel both shows in 2020 due to rapidly changing conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Show management had confirmed earlier that the two shows would be operated differently with physical distancing a requirement, along with other health and safety changes to the events.

While state and local officials had expressed support for both shows, Don Tourte, Senior Vice President, Farm Progress said that in a very short time it became apparent that the situation across the US had rapidly changed.

"We have been working with officials in Iowa and Nebraska for our shows, and we appreciate the support they expressed for us to hold the events," Tourte says. "They are critical partners to us, and we are all disappointed to not host the events this year, but feel confident that this is the right decision for our community.”

Rising concerns

One of the key features of both shows is their attraction to visitors from across the country, and across the globe.

"Within days of our commitment to hold both farm shows, more than half the United States saw a significant spike in new cases of COVID-19. We have a multi-generational audience that travels from all across the country and around the world to attend the shows and based on that we felt it better to reconsider the traditional show for 2020 to prioritize the safety of all. Our community’s safety is our priority, always,” said Matt Jungmann, Events Manager, Farm Progress.

"Within the next two weeks tents and other work would be underway on site. We had to make a decision based on the current landscape so that our exhibitors and suppliers wouldn’t potentially waste valuable time and resources,” said Jungmann.  “While we are hopeful that case numbers throughout the country will decrease soon, we felt compelled to make a proactive decision on our community’s behalf, given the information we have today.”

A virtual experience was already being planned as an extension to the live event. Jungmann explains that while a virtual event won't give growers the true "tire kicking" experience of being at the show, the events team is gearing up to deliver a robust and dynamic digital experience.   

"Market factors are changing fast, and we'll have more information in the coming weeks about how our virtual experience will be expanded," Jungmann says. "We have 400 acres of corn at two sites that have to be harvested. Ground that must be tilled. We're looking at all of our options to ensure we keep our community connected and engaged."