From the Ranch to the Table
Skipping the middleman, more Americans are going directly to the source for their beef.
The 2020 “Beef Shortage”
Not long after the infamous toilet paper shortage of 2020, beef also began to disappear from grocery store shelves. Meat prices rose and the mad dash to purchase and fill freezers soon followed as word of a meat shortage hit the headlines.
Of course, anyone in the beef industry knows there was never a shortage of beef. The breakdown in the supply chain came from the middle-man. The packing houses, impacted partly by Covid-19 and largely by greed, found yet another way to gouge both producers and consumers. However, they may have unintentionally started a ball rolling that signals a change in the way Americans buy beef.
Do You Know Where Your Beef Is From?
Ever since the repeal of Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) in 2015, consumers have been misled. At the same time, American ranchers have fought a losing battle against the packing house monopolies and foreign countries selling beef in our market under misleading labels. Despite continued attempts to reinstate MCOOL, the farce is still in place. Consumers, unwitting victims, needed a wake up call. This year, that may have come in the form of a virus.
When the frozen meat section in grocery stores started looking bare, those in the know changed their buying tactics. Especially in rural areas and small towns not far removed from agriculture, the solution was not a difficult one.
In truth, there was no beef shortage. It grazed the pastures along the roads, raised and tended for caringly by producers who faced yet another uncertainty in the market. The savvy consumer went directly to the source, and the savvy rancher gave them what they wanted. High quality, American born and raised beef. The demand was so great that local butchers were flooded, booking months ahead. Some even canceled the lucrative deer processing in the fall to keep up with the demand for beef.
Signs of Change?
Just like everything about this virus, things calmed and quieted. The initial beef shortage panic went away, the packers pocketed their profits, and business resumed as usual. However, there are many families who will be serving up beef bought and processed locally. Whether they are grilling burgers or smoking a brisket over oak barrel staves, the quality over average grocery store meat will be evident.
On the other end, there will be ranchers, like Chapman 3C Beef, whose eyes are opened to a new form of marketing, and processors who also see a fresh potential. For some of us, we see people finding out what we knew all along. There is no substitute for fresh American beef, and the hardworking American rancher.
Change comes slowly, but perhaps the chaos of 2020 gave the beef industry a small nudge in the right direction. If you haven’t already done so, consider going to the source for your own beef. In the meantime, learn about MCOOL, and demand it, so at least you can be sure where your meat comes from.
Author Joe Pinson