Depending on whom you talk to, many people are of the opinion that cow/calf producers are in for a rough ride for at least the conceivable short term. Record high hay prices, fertilizer prices, corn prices, and fuel prices are wreaking havoc on ranchers’ bottom lines, and are causing some to ask if the way we produce beef here in the U.S. should change.
“We are duking it out for market share with other proteins, with other countries, with other regions of the world, with regard to getting a good, high quality protein product into the homes of consumers globally.”
Clint Peck is the director of beef quality assurance programming for Montana State University and the Montana Stock Growers Association.
“Countries like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand. They finish cattle on grass. It’s a whole other ball game, a whole other type of product that’s produced on grass versus on corn.”
Even with high corn prices, Peck doesn’t think U.S. beef producers should change their product.
“We have a solid foundation in what we do in producing cattle on corn, all the way from the genome on to the finished product, and what the consumer really wants out there, a corn fed product that tastes good, that is tender, and that is juicy. They’re not going to get this, by in large, over the long run, with a grass finished product.”
Quality is defined in two different ways, one rather fluid, the other pretty inflexible.
“Quality is defined as a product that meets consistently, meets consumer expectations for taste, preparation and packaging, and value.”
“The other definition of quality is a product that is produced as a safe wholesome product that’s correctly packaged and labeled, and there’s no wiggle room there.”
Despite the current economic obstacles facing U.S. beef producers, Peck sees a bright long-term future.
“I am absolutely bullish on the beef industry, and what we can do in this country with our advantages, certainly with our productivity.”