There’s Good in BadWritten by Dennis Sun
Published: 05 November 2016
A Gallup Poll that had come out around the first of September said that Americans spend around $151 a week on food. That amount is smaller than when Gallup last asked the question in 1987.
Gallup first asked the question on food costs in 1943, when the average was around $15, and then again in 1987, when the money spent on food jumped to around $106. Gallup said that adjusting the historical data to 2012 dollars also reveals that Americans’ weekly spending on food began to decline in the 1970s, after rising to a high of $234 in 1966-67. Generally, the downward trend was interrupted by a spike in 1987.
Gallup also said the increases in weekly food spending over time largely reflect the impact of inflation. So, on a relative basis, after adjusting prior years’ data for inflation to 2012 dollars, Americans are spending less on food now than in the the mid- to late-1980s when the poll was last taken.
Americans lead the world on cheap food. I’ve heard that we only spend 11 to 12 percent of our earned income on food, where in other countries it is much larger.
The poll also showed that young adults' average weekly food spending is $173, and young adults ate out more often than other age groups. But, the number of all Americans who ate at home has increased to 80 percent, compared to the 10 percent who said they ate at a restaurant. I think that is a positive sign because we hear all the time how young adults don’t cook at home or don’t know how to cook. Now it is up the nation’s beef and lamb producers and the managers of their checkoffs to get the word out.
I see where those attending the World Health Summit in Berlin this week endorsed the “Meatless Monday” concept. That is an uphill battle we in the meat business all have to fight with one voice. Some may think that is an unattainable goal, but it needs to happen.
In the beef business, we’re also currently dealing with much lower cattle prices. The negative part is that we’re not going to be bringing in the amount of dollars we need. As long as we are stuck with it, we may just as well dream up some positive aspects of the lower beef prices.
Most shoppers don’t believe it, but grocery prices are going down, and beef products are leading the way. In a sense, that may be good in that it will get people back to buying steaks or roasts. Due to high prices, a lot of grocery shoppers have skipped over these products and just bought hamburger over the last few years. This past week, petite sirloin steaks were priced at $2.99 a pound and a boneless rump or chuck roast at $3.99 a pound. That is a good price for the consumer.
Those prices are an opportunity for the consumer, state beef councils and checkoff dollars to get back to the beef section of the meat counters. The competition for grocery shoppers, either online or in person, is huge today – so much so that those companies that sell groceries are seeing their bottom line drop. One can order groceries or even meals online, and they are delivered right to your doorstep and at a decent price. To most young adults, convenience is well worth the dollars. We just need to be sure there is lamb or beef in these boxes.
A Wolf isn’t Just a WolfWritten by Dennis Sun
Published: 29 October 2016
Lately there has been some movement, slow at best, with the Wyoming wolf issues. On Sept. 23, there was a hearing before a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
As you remember, it was around two years ago that U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, whose court is in Washington, D.C., ruled against and rejected Wyoming’s wolf management plan. Judge Berman Jackson did agree with Wyoming and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that wolves in the northern Rockies had recovered and that they were not threatened or endangered in a large part of their habitat. However, she sided with a group of environmental organizations and said Wyoming didn’t have enough binding language in the plan. Wyoming has since corrected that and appealed. That appeal most likely will not be settled or ruled on for some months to come. So we sit and wait while wolves destroy livestock on many ranches that are out of the trophy management area without compensation, as you read in the Roundup last week about a Thermopolis area rancher.
The plight of this rancher and others in Wyoming is most likely not on the judge’s concern list as we sit and wait for the decision. But, it is on the concern list of some in Congress – especially Wyoming’s Congressional Delegation – as legislation has been developed to recognize Wyoming’s plan and take the wolf off the list.
Also lately, there was a hearing in the U.S. House of Representative’s Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Man, that takes a long time to even say the committee’s name, but this committee held a hearing on the federal government’s management of wolves. As you can imagine, there were differing opinions on managing wolves from those in favor of the wolves who were not being affected everyday by them and those like the rancher northwest of Thermopolis who is. The sad part is, most of those who are in the wolf camp could care less about those whose livelihood is being destroyed by the wolf.
A study in late July came out from researchers at Princeton University that studied the genomes from various grey and red wolves and coyotes. They found out that there may not be a “pure” red or grey wolf in the country. They said the red wolf is really 25 percent grey wolf and 75 percent coyote, and the eastern grey wolf is 25 to 50 percent coyote. For years, many wolf experts have claimed that wolves have coyote and dog genes in their makeup. So instead of real wolves, we may just have a bunch of bad, killing coyotes out there.
What makes this study so important is that in 1973, the grey wolf was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, but this Act does not authorize that status for hybrids. You can imagine the discussions going on from Congress to the northern Rockies.
Most likely there will be more legal action and hopefully more research using genomes studies as this research has really gained ground in the last few years.
Maybe biologically, we just have a coyote or mongrel instead of a wolf. I would like to be DNA tested, but I’m not sure I could live with it, just like the wolf.
Food Prices Headed SouthWritten by Dennis Sun
Published: 22 October 2016
A USA Today article this past week read, “Grocery prices in the U.S. have fallen for eight straight months, underscoring an ongoing food deflation that has supermarkets at war while shoppers reap the benefits.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index showed that prices for food we eat at home have fallen by 1.6 percent in July from the same month last year. The article claims that the price of a dozen eggs has dropped about a dollar on average; a gallon of milk has dropped about 40 cents, and a pound of ground beef has dropped by roughly 50 cents. I don’t think the price of beef has dropped nearly as much as the prices have on the hoof, but maybe the drop will be enough to get more consumers to buy more beef and lamb.
They say the reason for the drop is that we keep producing and stockpiling food, even while the demand for it overseas has tapered off. This is especially true in places like China and other eastern countries, where the increasing strength of the U.S. dollar makes American goods more expensive and harder to export. As a result of this overabundance of food, those of us in America could see the longest streak of falling food prices in 50 years. So then we wonder, what will this do for the prices of grain and meat from farmers and ranchers?
They say grocery stores have entered a period that analysts are describing as a “price war.” At least five grocery store chains have claimed that the food deflation has threatened their profits last month, and this includes the giant Walmart.
William Kirk, a food retail analyst for RBC Capital Markets, says that he predicts America is about halfway through its current cycle of food deflation. “It takes a while to work the excess supply out of the system” he said. “You have to eat the cows.”
Well, we all hope it doesn’t take too long.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now buying up some of the food surplus, such as 11 million pounds of cheese, to reduce a cheese surplus that’s at a 30-year high, and around $12 million in eggs.
USDA is also pushing more cheese these days. While USDA and its My Plate food guide may caution people about eating too many high-fat foods that contribute to obesity, that didn’t stop the agency from helping a number of fast-food restaurants conspire to sell more high-fat foods that contribute to obesity. USDA has created an entity called Dairy Management, with 162 employees to help fast food giants “cheesify” their menus. The Chief Executive of Dairy Management said, “If every pizza included one more ounce of cheese, we would sell an additional 250 million pounds of cheese annually.” Dairy management, while mostly funded by dairy farmers, receives $5.3 million from USDA during one year.
Well, as Peyton Manning knows, there is money in pizza.
The Fourth LegWritten by Dennis Sun
Published: 15 October 2016
Late last week, I traveled to Jackson for the Wyoming Global Technology Summit. It was the first one I had ever attended, and afterwards, I was sorry that I had missed the first two.
The third annual summit was two evenings of refreshments and networking with speakers and various entrepreneurs from around the country and a day of presentations by some excellent speakers from around the world. The speakers’ topics sounded way above my understanding, but the speakers brought their subjects down to ground level for everyone to understand.
The goal of the summit, as our Gov. Matt Mead described, it is to make technology the fourth leg of Wyoming’s economy, joining energy, tourism and agriculture as the state’s leading industrial sectors. We applaud the Governor and others for this action. We’ve all talked about the state’s economy needing a little diversity, and our Governor and others are working hard to see that it happens. We realize that the main goal of diversifying is to keep our kids in the state with good jobs, and these days, technology provides good, well-paying jobs.
As our Governor said, he was tired of seeing the state’s best and brightest young people leaving Wyoming for greener pastures after graduating from high school or college. The technology sector could curb that. He also said that there are two areas where technology could make an immediate impact on the state and its existing businesses – healthcare and cyber security. Gov. Mead said technology has already made a big, positive impact on healthcare in the state, especially rural healthcare, with an increased use of telemedicine and the unified healthcare information network already paying dividends for the state.
However, as we heard from various speakers, cyber security is a great concern for businesses all over the world, and those who break the law in cyber security are hard to catch. It may even be other governments who are behind the crime.
We heard an interesting talk on research on CO2 capture. Wyoming already has a test center near Gillette to study the future of CO2 capture. It’s expensive, but there are ways to do it. We just need to have the research to find them and make it cost effective. Clean coal has a future in Wyoming – and the world, for that matter. We saw a graph showing that Wyoming’s coal production should stay steady with world demand for electricity. Any rising demand for electricity in America will be met by renewables or natural gas. But the graph also showed that, in the near future, China will increase its demand for electricity by as much electricity as the United States uses currently – that’s how much China will grow. Well, they need some of our coal, and they need to know how to capture the carbon. Wyoming can provide both.
At the summit, we also learned how a company is providing technology for the automated reading of brain wave data from your smartphone. It’s unbelievable. Other topics included applications of artificial intelligence, issues of cyber security and genomic medicine. The President of CenturyLink, who does business on five continents around the world, gave a great talk. He does need to prop up the service in Wyoming, though.
Wyoming can enter the world of technology. In certain areas, we’ve already kicked the door in. We owe it to our future – and especially to our youth’s future. Again, we thank our Governor and others for their work in seeing it happen.