Rising Beef Prices Means Large Food Producers Are Importing More Foreign Cattle

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With beef prices continuing to skyrocket, demand has shrunk and forced many of the largest food producers to import cheaper alternatives. Tyson Foods is among those who have been “squeezed” into not only importing more but also exporting less.

Tyson CEO Donnie King in August warned low cattle inventories were leading to difficult export market conditions. The U.S. beef cow herd in January was the smallest since 1962. As a result, imported beef products found in grocery stores and restaurants are on the rise.

“We’ll never accept imported beef,” said Jason Nelson, a disabled veteran and co-founder of survival beef company USA Beef Boxes. “We want the beef we sell to Americans to be born, raised, slaughtered, cooked, freeze-dried, and packaged right here in the United States.”

The trend to import beef has been accelerating this year due to many factors. And unfortunately, the proposed rule change to labeling beef as “Product of USA” is still only being considered. Imported beef can still be falsely labeled if it’s imported but processed in the United States.

According to Agriculture.com, the decline in cattle numbers, after years of drought fried pasture lands used for grazing, led to soaring U.S. beef prices. Higher prices incentivize companies to import cheaper beef and discourage U.S. beef purchases by buyers like China, Japan and Egypt.

Analysts expect lower demand for U.S. beef and higher costs for cattle to translate into negative quarterly margins for Tyson’s beef business, its largest unit, for the first time this year. The company, one of four processors that slaughter about 85% of U.S. grain-fattened cattle, reports fourth-quarter earnings this month.

“Well, no offense to Tyson but I wouldn’t get my beef from them anyway,” Nelson said. “Both my family and my company get all of our beef from local ranchers that we’ve vetted our personally because only then can we trust the sourcing.”

It isn’t just about being patriotic, Nelson noted. There are many health considerations in play because imported cattle have a higher chance of being poorly fed, mistreated, and diseased.

“I’ve actually ‘met’ many of the cows we’ve had slaughtered,” Nelson said. “They’re roaming the fields of Texas, eating nutritious pasture grass and avoiding the pestilence that’s present in herds across the globe.”

Concerns over the future of meat in general and beef in particular have prompted many Americans to stock up on long-term storage food. USA Beef Boxes launched last year with this in mind.

 

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