The Idaho Statesman ran back to back front page articles recently on what they deemed “Big Beef.” The message was solid and needs discussed, 1- the use (overuse?) of antibiotics in beef production and 2- the questionable use of mechanical tenderization on cuts of meat from older animals. I’m okay with the message and believe the beef industry needs to engage in open dialogue on both topics. What I object to is the assumption that “big beef” is bad. As if food production shouldn’t ever get big. The beef business is not unlike other industries that have consolidated to address economies of scale. It’s unrealistic to expect that just because we eat it, food is exempt from the squeezing of margins evident in other industries.
And just because business is big doesn’t mean it’s bad. The methods that big agriculture employs mean a wider availability of affordable food for you and your neighbors. And for the most part, animals receive excellent care on the largest of operations. Their standard operating procedures can out pace smaller farms and ranches in lots of positive ways.
Besides that, in beef production, big beef and family ranches work hand in hand. It’s still the cow-calf man that provides the raw material. Big Beef might finish, slaughter, and market our animals, but there’s nothing big about Mom and Dad feeding cows every day in a ’68 Ford 2-ton. Nothing big about discussing expenses under a wool quilt or strategizing at coffee time with the crew.
I’m all for addressing the real issues - safety, integrity, sustainability. Let’s leave rhetoric behind and get started!
|clad in their winter coats|