The importance of beef


Why is the beef industry important in the Ozarks? Because it’s pretty much the bread and butter, or the brisket and steak, of our rural communities. 

Every year, more than 90 million head of cattle are raised on more than 800,000 cattle operations, leading to the production of around 27 million pounds of beef, according to the USDA. The agency also calls cattle production “the most important agricultural industry in the United States.” Cattle production accounts for about 17 percent (the most significant share) and $392 million of total cash receipts for agricultural commodities.

Here are a few other interesting facts about beef production you might not know: 

• Missouri is third in the nation, right behind Texas and Oklahoma, in the number of beef cows.

• U.S. farmers and ranchers produce 18 percent of the world’s beef with only 8 percent of the world’s cattle.

• The U.S. ranked fourth in the world for the amount of beef eaten per capita, at 79.3 pounds, in 2016. On average, Americans average 112 pounds of beef per year.

• Beef is one of the most important dietary sources of iron. You’d have to eat three cups of raw spinach to get the same amount of iron in one 3-ounce serving of beef. It’s also a source of other nutrients, including protein, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, niacin, phosphorus, riboflavin and choline.

• 70 percent of food service operators say steak on the menu increases traffic.

Not bad for a bunch of cattle. 

When it comes to cattle, the thought generally goes to beef, and there is nothing better on the grill than a hamburger or steak. Dietary preferences aside, there are many by-products of beef that folks use daily, products many might not think about having a connection to the cattle industry. says 99 percent of a harvested beef animal will be used for meat and other products, including adhesives, fertilizer, steel ball bearings, shaving cream, biodegradable detergents, tires, tennis racket strings and other sporting equipment. A single cowhide can produce 144 baseballs, 12 basketballs, 18 volleyball or soccer balls, or 12 baseball gloves. 

It puzzles me how an industry that generates billions of dollars for the nation’s economy can is branded as bad, but that’s what some of our counterparts think. I don’t think they realize how much their daily lives include the cattle industry. 

Cattle production is blamed for increased methane gas levels, which has been scientifically proven to be false. Still, some folks just can’t let it go. UC Davis’ Frank Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist, has stated that cows and other ruminants account for just 4 percent of all greenhouse gases produced in the United States. Beef cattle are responsible for just 2 percent of direct emissions. Transportation and electricity account for nearly 60 percent of greenhouse emissions. We always knew the air was cleaner in the country, and this data only proves it. 

Cattle are all-natural lawn mowers and don’t require a battery, oil or gas like motorized mowers. They also leave a little natural fertilizer along the way to help regenerate the grasses and other forages they consume. 

Finally, cattle have the ultimate superpower – converting grass and grain into beef. Not bad for a bunch of cattle.

Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected].


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