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US produces high quality meat in worldwide market

Denver, Colo. –“Technology and communication play a big role today. When an event happens in the U.S., even if we wait until the stock market closes to announce it, the people in Korea are looking at us because it’s 8 a.m. there. We need to focus and think ahead in relevance to the beef we will produce in this country,” said U.S. Meat Export Federation Senior Vice President of Export Service Paul Clayton.
Clayton spoke on beef market globalization during the International Livestock Congress, held in conjunction with the National Western Stock Show, on Jan. 11 in Denver, Colo.
“In terms of the globalization of beef, we have to ask if we have enough land to feed the world, and enough beef to feed the world. We also have to ask ourselves if beef will be a commodity in high demand,” noted Clayton, adding, “It certainly will be, if we have anything to do with it.”
He explained that from 1980 to 2009 the U.S. basically doubled its world output, and it will probably double again by 2030.
“Where there’s productivity, there’s value. Not all countries will have productivity due to environmental or political issues. Others may not have skilled workers or an agriculture industry, or any workable land. Somebody has to feed that world population in one way or another,” said Clayton.     
He said the U.S. currently exports around 11 percent of produced meat. China and Russia export around 30 percent, but that’s mostly swine and poultry. Australia is another big player, but currently suffers from floods following a severe drought.
He added that North America ranks second in amount of arable landmass behind Oceania. South America rounds out the top three countries based on arable lands.
“We can take economic advantage of that as time goes on. One big benefit, and one key element here, is we are still the most productive nation in the world in cattle production.
“With our intensive grazing and feedlot finishing, we are the greatest producer of beef products. We need to continue doing what we do best, and take advantage of opportunities to merchandise products at a higher value by doing what we do best.
“By and large, we’re highly efficient in how we do things, and I don’t see that changing. It’s pretty tough for people to catch us from an efficiency standpoint. That allows us to produce products that are highly diversified. But, I warn you that our competitors are watching what we’re doing, and will try to get into the same markets we are,” said Clayton.
He explained that the lack of seasonality is one thing that keeps the U.S. at the top of the pile. “When you feed cattle you can keep a very consistent supply around at all times. There are various times we wean and feed cattle across the country, and that gives us access to a constant supply year round.”
He said another benefit to the U.S. today is the weak domestic dollar. “When our dollar is weak, we’re able to export and get value through other currencies. We’re essentially bringing that foreign dollar into the U.S. economy, and adding those dollars to our economy.”
“Trade balance is important, and not always a favorite subject with producers, but it’s important. We don’t eat liver here, and probably never will. There are parts of the beef animal we won’t consume, and other parts we consume the heck out of.
“For example, if short ribs stay in the U.S., they will probably be a 50/50 trim item worth about 80 cents. For as long as I’ve been around, we’ve sold those ribs in the Asian market, and we get nearly four dollars a pound for that product in that market. Shear economics drives that – it’s a value added market and puts dollars back in production,” explained Clayton.
He added that in 2003 the U.S. was getting around a $136 value in foreign markets, and this August that hit $159, which puts the country near where it needs to be for that value.
“Our number one asset is high quality beef. That keeps us diversified in both the domestic and international market place. It’s not just the marbling, but also the entire eating experience, and you just can’t top it. There are restaurants feeding 4,000 people a day in China that use U.S. beef. That’s a pretty good test that shows this stuff tastes pretty good,” said Clayton.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..