Economist: Higher beef production vital to health of industry
The January 2012 Cattle report provides numbers to indicate this is the smallest cattle herd since 1952, according to Brenda Boetel, University of Wyoming Extension Livestock Economist. Beef production totaled over 26 billion pounds in 2011, compared to about 10 billion in 1952. The beef industry produces much more beef with the same number of cattle that existed in the 1950s. Unfortunately, genetics will make it harder to continue producing more beef with less cattle.
Smaller beef production leads to smaller beef consumption. Beef consumption is measured by adjusting beef production for international trade and freezer stocks. When this number is divided by the current population, we get per capita beef consumption of 55.3 pounds, a 3.5 percent decline from 2011 levels.
It is vital for the long-term health of the industry not to have beef production fall too low, as retailers and wholesalers will encounter challenges when attempting to procure and feature beef. Consumers will find beef prices high and substitute lower-price protein products for beef, leading to continued decline of domestic beef demand. Finally, U.S. exporters will have less beef quantities. These exports have added to the higher prices experienced last year. With insufficient quantities of beef to export, U.S. beef will have a higher price, making competition from Brazil and Australia even greater.
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