Must Reads

“It was clear these animals were fully habituated to people on horseback but not to being moved by people on foot.”

Wise animal handlers appreciate the “psycowlogy” that's necessary in working safely and efficiently with bovines. As animal behaviorist Temple Grandin points out in “Why So Wild,” on page 18, animals are sensory-based thinkers. Their memories are in specific pictures, smells or sounds. That means they must be thoughtfully acclimated to new experiences, with the payoff coming in calmness.

“94.8% of participants in value-based marketing programs reported themselves as likely to continue their participation.”

Scott Grau, BEEF research manager, is a man of numbers, and his handiwork is on display in two major articles found in this particular issue. On page 27, you'll find the latest in our series of pull-out maps generated from the latest USDA Ag Census data. And, on page A2, we discuss the results of an exclusive survey of BEEF readers on their thoughts about value-based marketing.

“Farmers and ranchers often feel the consumer is ignorant when it comes to beef. That's not true.”

“Diversify” and “adapt” are what experts advise producers to do in this climate of high inputs and a topsy-turvy cattle cycle, but how does one go about those tasks? In “Direct Connections,” on page 42, Codi Vallery details how three Great Plains beef producers found their answer in selling beef direct to consumers — ultimately creating above-average returns for their cattle operations.

Food prices fall

An informal May survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) found the total cost of 16 food items used to prepare a meal was $46.29, down 2% or $1.12 from the first quarter of 2009. Of 16 items surveyed, the average price of 10 decreased, five increased and one remained the same compared to prices in the prior quarter. Overall, retail food prices at the supermarket decreased slightly for the third consecutive quarter, says the latest AFBF Market Basket Survey.

USDA says farmers in the mid-1970s received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. That's now just 19%. In addition, Americans spend less than 10% of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest percentage of any country in the world.

North Dakota toll

Spring flooding that followed late-winter blizzards killed a total of 90,000 head of cattle in North Dakota, including about 72,000 calves, it is estimated. All told, calf losses to North Dakota ranchers hit by flooding and blizzards are estimated to be about $30 million, with the total price tag for livestock losses surpassing $55 million, says Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND).

Low-carbon beef

Asda, a UK supermarket chain, is selling “low-carbon” beef, a product derived from dairy bulls 9-11 months old at harvest. The chain claims the animals produce a third less carbon during their lifetime than standard 24-month cattle and offer the industry's lowest carbon rate in meat products. Asda also claims that besides its professed environmental impact, the beef has the added benefits of smaller and more manageable portions and a cheaper price for consumers.

Anti-meat bias

When consumers go online to look for info about beef and dairy production practices, they're most likely to see one-sided content skewed toward organic production, according to v-Fluence Interactive. Research shows 70% of the content consumers are likely to see in searching for information about beef production comes from producers of organic or grass-fed beef, rather than from conventional producers. See the report.