By Megan Webb, Ph.D., Contributing Editor
Spring has sprung and, like a new sunset to welcome you each day, you may be delighted to have some young calves staring back at you. Calving season can be exhausting and sometimes stressful, but seeing healthy newborns can bring us much needed reward. Spring is one of my favorites because it brings new promise in the form of spring calves, green grass and more beef eating time outdoors. Though, spring of 2021 hasn’t been one for the faint of heart with looming legislation and negative attacks on beef.
Positive Vision Permits Positive Action
Cattlemen should have no fear because they are equipped to provide positive action and join together to cause great bandwidth and ability to let their voices be heard by elected officials. Cattlemen have already lived through the Impossible Burger, the shame of “cow farts” and imposed negative legislation on production agriculture. You may recall in March, Colorado Gov. Polis pushed for “MeatOut Day” on March 20. That’s when cattlemen countered the narrative by advocating for a “Meat-In Day,” aimed to increase consumer purchasing of bulk retails cuts in grocery stores and beef dining experiences to counteract the governor.
In fact, Colorado’s Weld County Board of Commissioners proclaimed March 20 as “Weld County Ranching, Livestock and Meat-In Day” to prove how important agriculture is. Weld County is Colorado’s leading agricultural county and is home to many livestock producers, meat processors and purveyors. By showcasing to elected officials the dollars spent on beef March 20, officials may realize that beef is too important to American consumers to favor such acts of injustice of liberty. As cattlemen, let us continue to celebrate beef every day with our family, friends and neighbors!
Opportunity on the Horizon
Beef consumers are enjoying beef more than ever as stay-at-home orders and social distancing have limited dine-in experiences and permitted more time for families to cook at home and re-learn in the kitchen how to cook beef. The volume of high-quality beef has also been more available than ever before, as USDA Average and High Choice steaks are more readily available in the retail case.
Consumers of U.S. beef, both domestically and internationally, are being satisfied as exhibited by beef demand, which continues to stay strong. As restaurant doors begin to re-open and restaurant occupancy increases, cattlemen and meat processors must continue to push the expected eating experience to the next level. Like the old 4-H motto, “to make the best better,” from cattle production to meat purveyor management, there is always room for improvement.
Producers and meat scientists continue to collaborate on ongoing research to continue to discover how to enhance the repeatability of consumers’ positive beef eating experiences by improving the management of beef by the cut. For example, each cut is unique and holds its own fat content, abundance and type of connective tissue, marbling and muscle structure. These individual and combined factors can ultimately influence consumer eating experience and, like precision agriculture, require precision management to perform optimally. For example, some beef cuts are minimally influenced by aging but greatly improved by moist heat cooking. Meat scientists continue to work to discover markers to better predict positive beef eating experiences and best management practices by the cut.
Speaking of cut, if you’d like to explore beef recipes by the cut, visit beefitswhatsfordinner.com to see guides on cooking and nutrition. Advances in technology and management practices will keep producers and processors thriving. Already, enhanced precision agriculture in cattle production has reduced the land use, water use and carbon footprint impact of beef production. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Cattlemen’s positive actions continue to prevail in an excellent manner.
Onward and Upward
Cattlemen have also worked hard to see some positive legislation introduced. The Cattle Market Transparency Act may be able to help smaller feedlots gain sales into major beef packers as a proportion of weekly cattle procurement would need to come from negotiations, which would increase the cattle base price.
Other good news for cattle producers is that, as the number of persons vaccinated increases and business doors re-open, there will likely be much pent-up energy circulating in consumers to dine-in and enjoy high-quality beef cuts. Therefore, opportunity lies ahead for beef competition and demand in the marketplace.
Producers have much to look forward to this spring and I hope you continue to challenge what may seem impossible to possible. Remember, if you keep your face to the sunshine, you cannot see a shadow. Onward and upward friends!