To complain about the Supreme Court's ruling against private property rights (“Supreme Court undercuts property rights,” August BEEF, page 4) while advocating a mandatory checkoff and USDA's intrusion on our rights to trade with Japan as in the Creekstone Farms fiasco is inconsistent. Property isn't just land; it's what we own. Those who claim there's a difference do so because they truly believe government is a higher power than our Creator who bestowed on us our rights to property.
What a deal this ID is
Time is money. Always has been, always will be. So to get a radio-frequency ear tag — which isn't free nor guaranteed never to tear out — in every calf in the country will have a cost. Plus, there's some danger from some cows taking less than kindly to messing with their calf.
So then we load them up in the fall, ship them to the feedlot or sale barn, and run them single-file past reader machines. This is more time, perhaps a little extra shrink, and certainly more aggravation.
Now, according to the July issue of BEEF (“Work In Progress,” page 30), a feedlot here and there will cut the tags out and apply their own tag.
Now, the critter is on the kill floor. Someone, or several people, are expected to “read” that tag, transfer the information so it travels with the carcass and all its resulting products.
And, all this for a reported cost of $5/head? Some bureaucrat with his trousers shiny from riding a desk chair sure opened a can of worms for the beef industry.
Cattlemen don't sell beef
The cattle producer doesn't sell beef. He sells the cattle beef is made from. Does the steel industry pay for General Motors' advertising?
As cattle producers, we should spend our money on issues directly affecting the cattle industry, not beef ads that only benefit the packer and retailer (if at all).
The packer and retailer are neither enemy nor partner to the cattle producer. They're in the meat business; we're in the cattle business — two completely different industries. If it were one industry, producers would be paid from the sale of meat and not cattle.
The only way producers can have any control over the prices received from the packer is to control the number of cattle available to the packer. This can only be done by forcing USDA to enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act, having some influence on beef and cattle imports into the U.S., and preventing captive supplies. This is where all our resources should go.
A open letter to consumers
Dear consumers, I'm writing to tell you how unfair country-of-origin labels are on our food. I agree you should spend less on your food, so I will go all over the world and buy food for you.
Maybe I can get South American beef that I know nothing about the way it was handled. I'll get grain products where producers maybe use chemicals banned in the U.S.
I'll shop around for cheaper produce. Hopefully it will comply with U.S. rules on chemicals and handling, but I don't think the bugs will hurt our domestic crops.
Even though I'll have no say in how your food will be grown, raised, handled or shipped, I'm sure I can get it cheaper for you. Just let me know.
Great ID coverage
I'm sharing your July issue (in its entirety) with Bill Hawkes (recently departed USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture), and excerpts with Valerie E. Ragan, DVM, the APHIS “guru” of livestock ID. So, please send me two additional copies.
I helped pioneer implantable microchips (RFID) with Digital Angel Inc., and its predecessor firms starting in 1984. We had to satisfy FDA's implant anatomical sites in “meat-producing animals,” which was necessary but so bureaucratic.
Additionally, USDA was slow to respond to animal ID needs until they saw the writing on the wall and brought Ragan on board.
At this point in time, transponder-loaded eartags are the order of the day, in my opinion. They're practical for pen riders in feedlot operations, and satisfy the meat packers current needs. We must still deal with matters of business confidentiality and the 48-hour-trace-back requirements, however.
Keep up the good work of communicating, and maybe the U.S. cattle industry will get going on animal ID and preserve our rightful place in the international meat trade before it's too late and the Brazilian cattle industry eats us alive.
Ralph C. Knowles, DVM