It’s a heartfelt idea when you consider how hard and long generations of ranchers had to work in order to conquer challenges and help the industry be where it is today. For a product to be so popular, despite not being able to grow in cattle or beef output over several years, is impressive to say the least.

Cooper david
Managing Editor / Progressive Cattle

And yet there are challenges this generation of producers is facing that ranchers before them never dreamed of confronting. And even with stellar prices, good moisture and high global demand, they probably don’t envy the position you’re in.

So as the good times seemingly continue for another year, and we see the national herd expand in a period of solid prices, don’t ignore a few stark realities.

The government is becoming anti-beef

In December, the advisory committee assigned with creating a new draft of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans decided to pull a fast one. After several meetings over the past year-and-a-half, they decided in the last meeting – in a closed-door gathering away from cameras – to remove lean meat from the suggested dietary standards.

Could the Departments of Ag or Health and Human Services put them back in? Yes, probably. But if you’ve watched Meatless Mondays promoted in schools and government agencies, you know the die may be cast on this issue.


From a dietary and sustainability standpoint, beef consumption is in the crosshairs of certain government officials. That trend is only going to grow.

Consumer tastes drive production tools

U.S. beef remains a popular product – especially overseas – because the variety of offerings, cuts and flavors. From tongues to oxtails, there’s a product that will command a premium somewhere.

But when consumers want to know more than just the end product, it grows more complicated. The tools adopted by industry for decades, including hormones, beta agonists, parasite controls, iron brands and antibiotics, are just a few examples of methods for which consumers are showing more skepticism.

Producers can effectively explain the need for those tools, but ultimately the verdict for their use is going to be made by those who buy beef. We may not like that – but we may have to accept it.

Ranchers need new blood

There simply aren’t enough new beef producers entering the industry. All demographic studies examining today’s generation of ranchers show the industry – in fact the bulk of it really – is nearing retirement age.

Older ranchers possess most of the herd and most of the acreage. USDA census data from 2012 show 65 percent of the pasture acreage in the U.S. is managed by ranchers ages 55 and older. While times are good, we simply need to see more growth from the younger cattle producer.  end mark

David Cooper