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NCBA: Cattle producers need to continue to help grow beef demand

By Jennifer Carrico

Protecting and growing the domestic beef demand, growing U.S. beef exports and building a favorable beef business climate are the main focuses of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

NCBA CEO Forrest Roberts said it is very important for producers at the state level to work together with NCBA and other organizations to be able to continue to have a successful beef business. Roberts was the keynote speaker at the opening session of the Nebraska Cattlemen's Convention on Dec. 8 in Kearney, Neb.

"In 50 years, the world population will require 100 percent more food, and 70 percent of this food must come from efficiency improving technology," he said. "Consumers need to have an available, affordable, nutritious choice when it comes to healthy food.

"Our cattle producers are providing healthy choices for everyone. Ninety-five percent of the people are comfortable with eating conventionally grown food, while the other 5 percent want to eat lifestyle foods."

Globally, beef production is down and with record high cattle prices in all classes, there is an extreme volatility in the market according to Roberts.

"The beef supply chain is worried about having enough supply to meet the demand," he said. "We need to start adding a lot of beef cows to the inventory in order to meet the beef demand."

Roberts said it is important for state and national beef organizations to work together to bring demand and legislative efforts together. Ground-breaking initiatives change perceptions to make consumers understand we are producing a safe product.

"We have to cut through the consumer clutter and be sure we are getting the right messages out to the consumers," he said. "We need to get the demand drivers out there and remind consumers of our great tasting, safe, nutritious and economical product."

He stressed the importance of letting consumers know that our animals are treated humanely and cattlemen take good care of the environment.

"We need to increase the number of times people are eating beef per week to at least four. They need to understand the power of lean beef," said Roberts. "That's why we have introduced BOLD--Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet--as part of a heart-healthy diet. We want consumers to remember beef as being memorably delicious and surprisingly healthy."

Governmental regulations have both helped and hindered beef production. Free trade agreements have given U.S. beef producers more access to markets in South Korea, Columbia and Panama. While 88 percent of the beef produced in the U.S. is consumed in the U.S., he said U.S. beef producers need to continue to gain momentum in other markets.

"The proposed GIPSA rule has made us justify why our marketing ways are important. Farm bill discussions continue to address livestock issues as well. It is important to find solutions to these and other issues at hand," he said. "We have had some small wins with the delay in dust regulations and we were given a chance to push back on animal rights organizations with the reinstatement of horse slaughter.

"While we consider these small wins, they are positively influencing our industry and moving us in the right direction."

Roberts said cattle producers need to continue to restore consumer trust by striking a dialog with those who don't understand the cattle industry.

"We even need to bring mainstream media people to our farms and ranches to let them see what we do every day and help them to understand how we take care of our animals," he said. "Demand for beef is our key driver. We cannot build this demand unless we communicate about what we are doing and why we are doing it."

Roberts concluded by telling the Nebraska cattle producers that by getting the positive word out on the cattle industry, consumer perception of the industry has risen 6 percent in the past four years and is now 77 percent.

Jennifer Carrico can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120, or by email at jcarrico@hpj.com.



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