One More Nail In The Coffin Of U.S. Cattlemen
Last month, while you were sleeping, the USDA announced they had approved Brazil as an exporter of beef to the USA. The move was seen as a slap in the face to many of those in the cattle business here in America. The initial quota for exports was 64,000 metric tons. So for those of you who don't do the metric system, the USDA told Brazil we would accept just north of 140 million pounds of beef from them this year, and each year thereafter until 2020 when there would be no limit on how much they could flood our market with. When you figure that there is about 500 pounds of meat on a mature steer, we're talking nearly 300,000 cows that we will purchase from Brazil alone. That's more than the total herd in many of the smaller states. So other than putting 3,000 small ranchers out of business, what's the problem? The fact is that Brazil is hot and humid. The beef cattle we're accustomed to here in the USA like angus, hereford, charolais, simmental and others don't thrive in the heat. The majority of the Brazilian herd is made up of the floppy-eared, long horned, cebu cattle. This breed thrives in the heat, but is like eating steel wool. And of course they won't tell you in the store what kind of beef you're buying. They'll just sneak it in. It'll be sitting right there next to the other steaks, and you'll settle down to what you think will be a nice, juicy ribeye, only to find out it's like eating shoe leather. You can't tell the breed of the cow by looking at the meat in the package. It's the ultimate bait and switch. There are those who think Brazil won't export the good steaks -- that they'll keep the good stuff for themselves and just export meat they don't want, (most of which will be good for nothing other than grinding into hamburger.) That's okay. Right? Not so fast. The steaks are tough and dry and that's exactly what your hamburger will be. Some shops will mix it in with domestic trimmings hoping you won't notice. The less scrupulous will just grind it up and put it out there on the shelf for the unwary. So whether that meat arrives in the form of steaks or burger is pretty much immaterial. It's an inferior quality of beef for the table. Plain and simple. And that doesn't even consider the hoof and mouth issue. Brazil's herd has been contaminated with hoof and mouth disease for as long as most of us can remember. According to the World Animal Health Organization (a veterinary counterpart to the World Health Organization for humans) Brazil is now free of the disease to their satisfaction. Personally, I'd feel better if the USDA inspected there and declared it hoof and mouth free, like they have done in some other South American countries (Uruguay, for example.) But we're being pushed more and more into accepting what the "world" community thinks in preference to what our own government thinks. What about the price of meat, you might be thinking? Will it be cheaper? Yes. It will come down in price as supply increases and demand decreases. Of course it will come down. But once people get suckered into buying inferior cebu beef a few times, they're going to give up on beef for the most part and a whole industry -- one that's been thriving for hundreds of years in America -- is going to suffer significantly. So what do you do? There are two things you can do. First, switch to bison today. Bison is only grown here in America, it's healthier for you than beef, chicken, fish or any other kind of meat, and you know what you're getting and where it came from when you buy it. If you haven't switched to bison yet, do your family a favor and make the switch today. Between GMO foods, questionable farming and ranching practices, etc. it's going to be increasingly important to know where your food comes from. With Bison there is never any question. If you've got your heart set on beef, find a local grower and buy local. At least that way you know exactly what you're getting. Buying that way is the red-meat equivalent to buying veggies at the farmer's market. You not only know where it came from and how it was grown, you're keeping your food dollars in your own community, which is good for everyone. Those are dollars that end up in local schools and so forth. Buy local is going to get more important as time goes on. That's what Europeans did during the hoof and mouth scare in the '90s. Butchers had signs in their meat cases that said, "This meat came from Joe Jone's cattle that were in his pasture last week over on highway 89. You saw them standing in the field. You know they are healthy and you can buy this beef with confidence." People in Europe who bought beef during this period only bought local. It's a good practice. In conclusion, Brazil isn't the only exporter of beef to America. Far from it. There are many countries. Brazil is just another. But Brazil is a big exporter and when the gloves come off in 2020, and there are no more limits on what they can send, the market will be flooded with inferior beef. No question this is a blow for the US cattle industry. Hopefully they will come up with some way to weather the storm. But until then, we can all help local cattlemen and help ourselves by knowing exactly what we're buying and where it came from. Buy local! We'd like to hear what you have to say on this issue. If you live in the city, maybe you don't care one way or the other. If you live in cattle country, this is a hot-button issue. What do you think? Did the USDA do the right thing in accepting beef from Brazil?