Ships are sailing
By Trent Loos
I see many news outlets starting to spout off about "seriously" higher beef prices on the horizon. They are encouraging consumers to stock their freezers or they may not be able to enjoy beef in the near future due to high costs. I doubt that anybody reading this can argue the concept but we are letting the liberal media get off the hook by pointing their fingers and blaming the drought. The drought has not been the cause of higher prices yet. The truth of the matter is that the drought has, up to this point, kept the beef prices in check. The real culprit is the rejection of technology, but apparently our memory is even shorter than the beef supply.
In March of this year, I wrote in this very publication about the impact of rejecting Lean Finely Textured Beef, which the media has hyped as pink slime: "The technique they developed actually recovered enough additional beef from the bone that it reduced the need for 1.5 million additional head of cattle each year."
In October, I wrote about additional rejections of technology used in the beef sector and the net result that would follow:
"Dr. Jude Capper's work indicates that we would need 17 million more acres of land and 138 billion more gallons of water to produce the same total amount of beef. At the same time, 18 million extra metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent would be released in the United States alone and 16.9 million acres of forests would be destroyed in other countries.
"The bottom line is that over a 15-year period we would see the U.S. beef herd decrease by 17 percent."
For the record, drought played no role in the projection of those numbers. They are based simply on the public and legislative rejection of technologies that are already in place.
So where are we, historically, in beef production? Year to date we have produced 23,587.6 million pounds of beef compared to 23,964.6 million pounds by this time one year ago. Those numbers amount to a 1.8 percent decrease in beef produced this year to date.
Ironic or not, you can decide for yourself. Iowa State University reported that the total production of LFTB in 2011 was 850 million pounds. No surprise then that a full production of LFTB in 2012 would have increased the beef supply in our year-to-date figure to a level even greater than 2011. Not only has this public rejection cost the industry, it has greatly cost consumers. According to the Iowa State study, blackballing LFTB had a cost to society of $300 million in 2012 alone.
So while I, like you, am feeling the effects of the drought on my cow herd, the truth of the matter is that the immediate impact will not be felt by consumers for almost two years. We have an opportunity to explain what the true "cost" is for this rejection of modern technologies and I hope we don't miss the boat. Ships are sailing now. Make sure you get aboard the right one or you may be paddling upstream for years to come.
Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.