Our calendars have finally rolled over to the month of May.
For me, that means I might finally be able to add a few new plants to the landscape of the Crawford Ranch without worrying about frost, and I’m looking forward to spending more time enjoying the weather opposed to cursing it.
For others, May means graduation celebrations, finalizing plans for summer vacations or getting ready for the county fair circuit to kick off. May is many things to many people, but if there is one thing we should all celebrate this month, it’s our nation’s cattle producers.
May is National Beef month and I plan on celebrating around our barbecue grill with some tasty burgers and steaks at least once a week, if not twice a week, all month long.
Raising cattle is a way of life for many of us in the Ozarks and the impact of our family farms on our nation’s economy is huge. The U.S. beef industry is made up of more than 1 million businesses, farms and ranches. According to the USDA, the U.S. is the largest beef producer in the world.
Here are a few fun cattle facts from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association:
• Number of cattle and calf operations: 915,000
• Average herd size: 40 head
• Economic impact: $88.25 billion in farm gate receipts
• In 2015, U.S. beef production (commercial carcass weight) was 23.69 billion pounds. The total U.S. beef consumed was 24.807 billion pounds, and the average annual U.S. retail Choice beef price was $6.29 per pound
• Value of total U.S. beef exports (including variety meat) in 2015 equaled $6.302 billion
• Top export markets for 2015 (in order): Japan, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong the Middle East.
Let’s also not forget that our country’s dairy farms also contribute to the beef industry with feeder steers and heifers, as well as the cull cow and bull markets.
There are, however, a few elements in the beef industry that we sometimes forget, including its impact on other, non-agriculture industries, and the connections might surprise those who are adamant in their anti-animal agriculture stance.
For example, the health and beauty industry utilizes cattle byproducts in the production of collagen cold cream, cosmetics, shaving cream, shampoo and conditioner, soaps and other products.
Camera film, perfume, candy, marshmallows, gelatin, chewing gum, candles, baseballs, basketballs, vitamin capsules, fertilizers, luggage, piano keys, plastic bags, paint, violin strings, tires, china and even asphalt binders all have elements of beef byproducts.
Several months ago, I read a blog written by someone who was “appalled” that consumers were being “tricked” into condoning the slaughter of animals by the use of animal byproducts. The writer had big plans to boycott certain companies and to write scathing letters to the corporate leaders.
I hope the writer doesn’t use a computer to write those letters because it is likely the plastic and rubber components contain stearic acid (a cattle byproduct), which is used to stabilize computer against heat. No driving to the companies either because of the whole tire and plastic issue, and shoes might be out of the question because of the use of leather, so the best option for the blogger might be to investigate using carrier pigeons.
With so many things that can be attributed to cattle production, we should celebrate the industry each and every day, not just in May.
During National Beef Month, let’s take the opportunity to educate those around us about many aspects of the beef industry and its importance to our daily lives. And when someone asks, “Where’s the beef?” you can tell them.