Understanding the Natural Beef Market
North Dakota State University Animal and Range Sciences Department
It seems natural labeling trends are invading almost every segment of the food industry. Last week, I even saw a commercial for “Natural 7-Up”. Natural and organic meats are the fastest growing segments in the retail grocery market today.
While organic standards need to meet strict U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines, the definitions between natural food products are vague. USDA defines natural as “minimally processed.” In the beef industry there are basically three different marketing strategies used by those producing natural beef. These include “Never-Ever” programs, “Withdrawal Time” programs and “Testing” programs.
Never-Ever programs have supply chain arrangements that allow them to procure cattle that have never had growth promoting implants or antibiotics. In most cases this is carried out through a series of affidavits producers sign at various points along the beef production cycle. Companies like Laura's Lean Beef and Coleman are good examples of processors using these marketing programs.
Withdrawal Time programs guarantee the cattle have not had growth promoting implants or antibiotics for a certain period of time immediately prior to slaughter. While the length of time varies, it is typically 100-120 days. National Beef's Naturewell program is an example of a Withdrawal Time program.
Testing program marketers are companies like Maverick Ranch. Maverick Ranch purchases product from a number of sources, tests it for antibiotic residues and markets the product as “natural” if it passes the tests.
Most consumers are pushing these companies toward the Never-Ever programs. The growth that has occurred recently is likely not a bubble or a blip that will go away. We are on the verge of the retirement of the baby boomer generation. This generation typically is concerned about health issues and has plenty of disposable income to spend on food, especially food they believe to be healthy. What makes the trend even less likely to slow down soon is the fact that both Swift and Tyson entered the natural beef market this year.
If you or your bull customers want to take advantage of this growing industry segment, study the companies involved and look for ways to work into the supply chain. Premiums can be lucrative in months when seasonal supply is low. Because of lower supply in the fall and early winter market for natural fed cattle, a fall calving herd may be uniquely positioned to fit into this market segment.
Congress Freezes Spending on Animal ID
According to Pete Hisey, Meatingplace.com, about $33 million meant to fund the next steps in a national animal identification system was frozen during negotiations over a $93.6 billion agricultural bill on Tuesday.
An earlier attempt to kill the program outright was defeated, but the House approved a measure to withhold funding for animal ID until USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) publishes a proposed rule, setting out parameters for the plan.
NCBA Supports H.R. 4341
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is asking America’s cattle producers to urge members of Congress to support H.R. 4341.
Introduced by Reps. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), this legislation would confirm that Congress never intended to regulate animal manure under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA/Superfund regulations). The bill is designed to prevent the possibility of manure being considered a hazardous substance under CERCLA and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
For more information, visit the NCBA Web site.
ORIgen and Genex to Sell Bovigen Beef Tests
Bovigen’s GeneSTAR® and SireTRACE® DNA products will now be available through both ORIgen and Genex Cooperative Inc., as a result of recent marketing agreements.
The GeneSTAR® Tenderness and Quality Grade tests are most often used by breeders and producers who want to make significant genetic improvements in their herds. The tests determine which animals have the genes responsible for improved quality grade and tenderness.
GeneSTAR® Black is a coat color test that identifies if black-coated animals have two copies of the black coat color gene and are homozygous, or if they also carry a copy of the red color gene and are heterozygous.
SireTRACE™ is a cattle DNA fingerprinting and parentage test that identifies the offspring of a particular sire. Because SireTRACE™ confirms parentage, beef producers who use multiple sires in a single pasture, or who turn out a herd bull immediately after artificial insemination, will be able to identify the sire of any calf born, enabling them to identify the sire with superior genetics.
For more information visit the Bovigen Web site or call 877-BEEF-DNA.
A Fight against False Accusations
Cassie Bacon, 2005 National Beef Ambassador
The National Beef Ambassadors, who are sponsored through the American National CattleWomen and U.S. beef checkoff dollars, are working on a project to help foster a more positive image of beef. In response to a new book out for preteens called “Chew on This,” co-authored by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson, beef ambassadors are sticking up for the truth about the beef industry.
“Chew on This” includes negative false statements about the beef industry from production to plate. A blog has been established to post information to help clear up some of these accusations and to help educate youth and American consumers about how nutritional and safe American beef is.
You can help! Visit the Chewing The Cud Web site to make comments about the blogs posted. If you know anyone who might be reading the book, please pass this information along to them.
U.S. Cattle on Feed Up 9%
Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in the U.S. for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 11.6 million on May 1, 2006. The inventory was 9% above May 1, 2005, and 11% above May 1, 2004. This is the highest May 1 inventory since the series began in 1996.
Livestock Congress Papers Available Online
Think-tank participants of the 2006 International Livestock Congress have issued papers on bovine spongiform encephalopathy, foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza. These papers can be downloaded in PDF format from the ISEF Web site.