Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Presented at Range Beef Cow Symposium XXI, December 1-3, 2009, Casper, Wyoming. Sponsored by Cooperative Extension Services and the Animal Science Departments of the University of Wyoming, Colorado State University, South Dakota State University, and the University of Nebraska¬Lincoln.


Nobody ever said the beef business was going to be easy. But, who knew even 10 years ago how complicated it would be to raise a calf and get it sent off to market. Few could have predicted there would be raging debates over animal welfare and animal rights or “food vs. fuel.” Not long ago the most intense pressure facing cattle ranchers came while slugging it out for market share with chicken. For 20 years we lost so much market share to a burgeoning and highly-integrated poultry industry that we began shifting the nucleus of the U.S. beef industry from “commodity” production to “program” production. While we’re being asked to provide increased supplies of wholesome, safer food at more affordable prices, outside observers scrutinize and criticize how we operate. They challenge us to produce beef in ways that re-define animal husbandry, genetic science and environmental safety. Meanwhile, global population is streaming away from the farm to the cities and with this demographic shift comes increased horizontal and vertical integration in food production and food distribution. Consequently, consumers are increasingly confused and ignorant as to where their food comes from. But, paradoxically, consumers globally are also demanding a stronger voice in how food is produced who produces it. And, relentless throughout in the food chain is the trend toward globalization. The Doha Round of trade negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was labeled the “development round” – a key aim of which is to increase developing countries’ access to developed-country agricultural and processed food markets