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If You Liked 2014

Written by Dennis Sun

    As I wrote this column earlier this week, it was eight degrees below zero outside, with a north wind. At the same time, we were looking at 12 to 16 inches of snow in and around Casper, so we have all the winter here we need for awhile. Looking at the snowpack on Dec. 29, it is all over the board. The northwest quarter of the state has a bunch of snow, but the rest of the state looks hit-and-miss. In some parts of the country, the mountains are snowed up, but close by, there is not much snow pack at all. 

If you are involved in any segment in the beef business, numbers, of course, will still be low as it takes time to grow numbers in the beef business, but prices sound like they will stay high. We hope the dollar doesn’t get too high as that hurts exports, but domestic consumers still want beef, and the beef people through the checkoff are finding new beef products that consumers will like. 

According to Drovers CattleNetwork, the next three years are projected to bring slow but steady decreases in per capita beef consumption, and that is about the only negative in the meat business. The article went on to say that from 2013 to 2014, beef consumption dropped from 56.3 retail pounds to 54.6 retail pounds per capita. In 2015, beef consumption is expected to drop down to 52.2 retail pounds, reaching only 48.5 retail pounds by 2017. By 2018, beef consumption should improve, leveling out to a steady 52.4 retail pounds per capita by 2024.

So, barring any wrecks, beef prices are looking good for some time. We can only hope they do stay high and the cost of producing beef goes down.

Hopefully energy costs will help. As the experts say, steady prices are best as one can plan on that, but a sharp rise or fall really hurts in the long run for any commodity. 

Looking at the bigger picture, total meat consumption per capita is on the rise, and beef has to compete both in price and consumer demand. I’m a big fan of the beef checkoff and what it has done for the beef business. Just look what has happened with the new products from the front shoulder clod portion of the chuck. With the development of the Flat Iron, Petite Tender, the Denver and Ranch Steak all from the shoulder clod, the value added by these products has more than made up for the extra labor in cutting the steaks. 

Studies have shown that just the new cuts from the shoulder clod have added $50 to $70 to the value to each finished animal. 

In the case of middle meats, such as the top sirloin and ribeye, the development of new cuts focuses largely on portion control. As the size of the fed cattle continues to rise, the cuts of beef get bigger. The industry is coming out with ribeye filets now from of the plain ribeye. 

Also, new ways to prepare meat are being developed. From cooking hamburger in a bag in the microwave to cooking a pot roast in a bag in a slow cooker, it’s what today’s consumers want, and that is what the checkoff is all about.