Home 5 Ag Stories How social pressures are shaping today’s beef industry

How social pressures are shaping today’s beef industry

Profit Matters 5-1-17

Have you ever had friends or family come to your table for Sunday dinner or a special meal where you served the best beef you could find? Instead of complimenting the taste, they asked where the meat came from, how it was raised and whether it was only grass fed.

Unless they are family, folks like that don’t get invited back, but it is a growing issue in the cattle industry that consumers want more than taste and tenderness in their meat.

That brings in the major customers of the cattle industry: McDonalds, Restaurants and all the major grocery stores nationwide.

It’s not all bad if you as a meat producer can benefit from society’s desire to know the origin of the animals and they way they were fed and handled.

I have a friend who produces grass fed cattle for Whole Foods. His checklist is quite long and he has regular inspections, but he sells 25 head of finished cattle to them every week at a substantial premium above the market.

The main concerns consumers used to have when it came to the beef products they purchased, was having a consistently great eating experience and knowing they were serving their families a safe, wholesome meal.

Today, that is still true but now consumers also are concerned about how beef is raised – organically or traditionally, is it grass fed? Is it all natural? The list goes on.

Livestock Market Economist Glynn Tonsor told Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays, that the industry needs to be paying attention to these concerns and make sure it is doing a good job responding to questions.

“Society in general is increasingly shaping how meat is produced,” Tonsor said. “They’re doing it in different ways. Anybody that’s on the supply side of that story needs to be cognizant of that, because at the extreme, you can have mandates put upon you that you need to be aware of.”

Tonsor says collectively, the public is making these mandates one of two ways. Either through the things they buy, or through the pressures put onto the consumer.

He explains that society as a whole, as it develops with ideas and trends, influences the purchasing decisions of the consumer through this “relational pressure.”

Society has staged a recent trend to become aware of sustainability and production practices on farms and ranches, for example.

In turn, this has caused consumers to question the way in which their food is raised and cared for, and how ranchers manage their operations.

While many in this part of the country, here in the heartland may consider themselves traditionalists, probably opting to buy their meat based on the quality of taste, safety and price, Tonsor says the rest of the consumer base may not think the same way.

“While that can be very frustrating to livestock producers, and I fully appreciate that,” Tonsor said, “that doesn’t change the fact that’s the way it is now in the US and you have got to keep in mind that the bulk of the product that is consumed is where the people are. And most of the people are on the coast.”