Farm and Food: ‘Harvested cattle, slaughtered markets’

Alan Guebert writes "Farm and Food"

Alan Guebert writes “Farm and Food”

You don’t want to be a vegan to know that livestock and poultry are not “harvested,” the squeaky thoroughly clean verb that is become trendy amongst farm and ranch groups to reduce the conclusion — as in The Stop — of most animals their associates grow.

Soybeans are harvested pigs are slaughtered. Wheat is harvested cattle are slaughtered.

It is not a minor position, insists C. Robert Taylor, Eminent Scholar of Agricultural Economics and Community Coverage at Auburn College, in his not long ago released treatise on today’s badly damaged cattle marketplaces. Taylor telegraphs the paper’s topic via its title, “Harvested Cattle, Slaughtered Markets?”

The semantic sarcasm isn’t accidental: Whilst U.S. farm and commodity teams used a long time sharpening meat’s picture (“harvesting”), worldwide agbiz used their time and methods buying up, then dominating — ahem, slaughtering — farm and meals sectors this sort of as seed, cattle, poultry and grocery retailing.

Now, a single marketplace, cattle, is so near dying that each the Senate and House Ag committees lately held commonly publicized hearings to push ideas on how to resuscitate it. Two plans ended up showcased. The very first “would generate a new U.S. Office of Agriculture (USDA) business office to watch for anti-aggressive practices in the meat and poultry industries,” the Washington Write-up documented April 27.

The 2nd, labeled “The Cattle Cost Discovery and Transparency Act,” hopes to establish “minimums for negotiated product sales and involve crystal clear reporting of marketing and advertising contracts to make certain ranchers are finding a good shake in a hugely consolidated cattle current market,” it ongoing.

Both or both strategies may well have had merit 20 many years back when it was by now apparent that major meatpackers had been tightening their grip on cattle marketplaces. These days, however, each programs are window dressing from late-to-the-social gathering politicians. Neither will have a nickel’s value of effects on selling prices paid out by packers for cattle or for altering any “anti-competitive methods in the meat and poultry industries,” Taylor suggests.

Why? Due to the fact, as his readable, 49-web page report tends to make obvious, big packers prolonged in the past acquired how to reduce level of competition in the dwell cattle current market even though maximizing confusion more than today’s USDA maze of reporting demands. The information bears witness to their ever-increasing prowess at the expenditure of each cattle growers and individuals.

More than the past two decades, Taylor writes, “Retail beef price ranges in frequent (deflated) pounds have trended strongly upward … from about $500/cwt (for each one hundred pounds) to over $700/cwt … Grocery retail store profitability has also trended upward, about doubling in the previous three decades …”

“Profitability of independent cattle feeding has trended downward … from an average revenue of $50/head to an normal decline of $50/head.”

Furthermore, these “sustained fiscal losses for independent feeders very likely clarify, in aspect or in complete, the reduction of 83,000 feedlots with a thousand or less head potential in 25 several years and 48,000 in the very last decade” by itself.

These feedlots’ get-out-though-you-can math was rather easy, Taylor presents. The $50-for each-head decline they confronted in just the past 10 years by itself would have totaled a devastating $1.5 million-per-feeder experienced they stayed.

By some means, nevertheless, the uber-significant feeders escaped identical losses and a comparable fate: The quantity of feedlots with about 50,000 head ability basically greater from 45 in the late 1990s to 77 right now. How?

“Sweetheart deals with big captive feeders” — independent feedlots contractually-tied to one particular of the large 4 packers — “may explain, in section or in entire, how they have survived and even (grew) in the last ten years … Publicly out there knowledge on prices or returns for big feedlots are not readily available to deal with this concern.”

If neither Congressional effort and hard work retains tiny to no hope to even partly mend today’s broken cattle market place, what could? Taylor gives four “options for further more discussion.” All hold some benefit, he explains in a Could 9 phone job interview, but also, all demand a amount of govt intervention that hasn’t been seen in most ag marketplaces for a long time.

“The bottom line,” Taylor admits, “is that after decades of seeing cattle marketplaces turn out to be additional built-in with meatpackers and meat stores, I really do not have a superior remedy which is politically workable.”

Bottom line? If the industry experts say it is slaughter, it’s slaughter.

Alan Guebert is an agricultural journalist. See past columns at

This report at first appeared on South Bend Tribune: Farm and Foods: ‘Harvested cattle, slaughtered markets’

Rebecca R. Ammons

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