Nashville: Ranchers Are Optimistic13 February 2014
US - ‘Optimism’ was how National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Chief Executive Officer, Forrest Roberts, described the feelings of producers after chatting with them at the Annual Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville.
He told TheBeefSite that, on the whole, Mother Nature is being kinder, with improved moisture levels leaving many producers with ‘smiles on their faces’.
This is coupled with cattle markets that have been ‘on fire’ through the New Year.
Going into the conference, his Vision 2020 rallied the industry to take charge of domestic and international markets.
His mantra for the industry is that challenges have been overcome and good opportunities are presenting themselves for the future.
He made it clear that rebuilding is a necessity - not an option.
This view was echoed by Cattlefax CEO Randy Blach whose key message was that the US would not be the world's biggest beef producer for much longer unless the breeding herd is grown within four years.
Both talked about the need to embrace new and emerging markets and ensure beef stayed at the centre of the plate.
Mr Blach voiced concerns about pork and chicken filling the void left in the cattle sector by the recent drought.
First and foremost this means retaining heifers and a likely further tightening of beef supplies. For the industry as a whole, Mr Roberts said this requires cooperation to promote beef as a quality product produced safely.
Production standards were explored in many seminars at the conference, the most eagerly anticipated of which explored how McDonald’s will source verified sustainable beef from 2016.
Vice-President for global sustainability at McDonald’s, Bob Langert reassured farmers that sustainability should not be seen as a threat, but a way of benchmarking and promoting a great industry.
He told TheBeefSite that a sustainability label will mean closer scrutiny and transparency on farms. This will require ‘proof points’ for assessment.
But farmers should not be worried. Transparency is only a problem when you have something to hide and Mr Langert’s message was that the beef sector has a lot to shout about.
Right at the crux of sustainability is animal welfare. Mr Langert explained that it is part of the three E’s approach to sustainability; economics, ethics and environment.
Tyson speaker Dean Danilson stressed that most producers are welfare compliant and should be proud to show it as more farm tests and quality assurance, such as Tyson’s FarmCheck programme, appear.
“In a way, it is rather like being back at school,” he said. “Be proud of getting the equivalent of A’s on your check list card.”