Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Dear Beef Magazine,

Just musing about your contributing writer Troy Marshall.
Periodically I read his column. Don't need to though, for regardless the year, he inks the same ol' finger wagging at cow-calf producers.
Now perhaps this would be alright if adults enjoyed being scolded, and, once in a while he chose... say... his index finger, or thumb, or pinky. But noooo, he uses only his middle finger. This skews any potential of his letting them know they're number one.
For example, in Troy's "COOL" lessons, he once again forgot to extend beyond his usual scolding of cow-calf producers and humming praises to packers.
While it's a given cow-calf producers need packers, I'm not so sure anymore, that packers need cow-calf producers who provide born and raised in the U.S.A. beef; particularly when packers can cheaply import all tough chewy stuff they want.
It appears to this outside observer that the only area packers need said beef, is to serve foreign markets that demand this high quality beef that generates sweet profits for them. Now I don't think America's beef producers are adverse to this, as it is a backasswards compliment that confirms they grow the best beef in the world.
But, the kinks in this journey include: America's beef producers must take whatever price packers give them, and do not share any financial boost from exports. On top of that, packers expect producers to pay for geographical indicators (see animal I.D. such as NAIS) as required for exports.
In other words...for the lay person who might be reading this...Cow-calf producers receive one paycheck a year, and at an amount not determined by them. They can't pass along cost of doing business like weather, government regulations and fuel. Contrarily, because packers may negotiate prices they generally make money selling beef whether it's coming or going.
Fifteen years ago, I remember speculating with a producer that their future might be in "Branded Beef;" where each package would not only have its Country of Origin, but the name of the ranch area it came from.
Scoffing at my idea they stated firmly, "Not enough packing houses. There's only three! They control the entire U.S. Cattle Industry - and - the U.S.D.A.!"
Imagine: Independent packing houses popping up everywhere; directly serving communities while inadvertently busting up the packer monopoly; The rightful death of WTO and the honored birth of COOL; The beginning of honest competitive markets that would generate a re-growth of American herds? A USDA that'd embrace "fair" trade; A cow-calf producer actually receiving a civilized price for his incredible product.
Imagine: "Compromise" enough to end Troy's finger wagging.
But then, I'm just an observer. What do I know about the intricacies and complexities of the U.S. cattle industry?
I am though, an expert consumer who knows how much I hate it when I'm the one who gets that damn ol' skunky piece of imported Brahma on my plate, knowing some Poodle across the ocean is enjoying a tender, sizzling, succulent, born and raised in the U.S.A. Ribeye!
OK. I'll stop here before my middle finger has mused itself into an out of order experience.

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