2020 was a record year for cattle imports, meaning more cattle were shipped into the United States than ever before by one and a half times.
Bill Bullard is the CEO of R-CALF USA, a VA nonprofit organization that fights for the profitability of the U.S. cattle industry. He says imports of beef reached a record high of 4.4 billion pounds in 2020.
He says the big problem is that you don’t know where that meat is coming from.
Bullard says, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture allows even Uruguayan and Nicaraguan beef to be labeled ‘product of the USA’ provided it goes through a U.S. processing plant.”
Back in 2019, a lawsuit was filed against four of the largest beef-packing companies.
These companies were Tyson Foods Inc, Cargill Inc, JBS and National Beef Packing Co. According to Data Transmission Network and Dataline, or DTN, these companies possess more than 80% of fed cattle in the U.S.
Bullard says it’s the meatpacking plant giants along with increased U.S. beef imports that are affecting the marketplace. He also said, “We have seen producers receiving severely depressed prices at the same time consumers are paying all-time record high for beef at the grocery store.”
Jeff Schafer is the President of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and is feeling optimistic.
He and says that concerns are being addressed, and changes are being made.
Schafer said, “We’ve seen a growth in the regional processing within our state according to the Department of [Agriculture] we’ll see 126% increase over last year on state processing plants. I think that’s a huge win.”
Schaefer says concerns about labeling issues regarding the origin of the beef are also now being addressed.
But Bullard says in meantime, the marketplace is broken and the imports are just one part of a much bigger problem.
North Dakota is in the top 10 in the nation for the number of cattle owned. According to the USDA, there are 975,000 beef cows.