Celebrate National Beef Month

By Clint Andersen

May is National Beef Month, so each week of May we will take a look at what the beef industry contributes to our local, state and national economy.  Throughout the month we will look at beef production and marketing, beef’s contribution to human nutrition, uses of beef by-products, and some of the issues facing the beef industry today.

U.S. Production Facts - Let’s start with a broad look nationally, then narrow the focus down to our state and local outlooks.  Nationally, there are over 750,000 beef cow operations producing 32.6 million head of beef cows.  This puts the national average cow herd size at around 43 head per operation.  These producers feed and market 26.2 million cattle each year.  

Nationwide, there are 87,000 cattle feeding operations who have 14.3 million cattle on feed.  This makes the size of the average cattle feeder around 290 head.  Cattle and calves make up 41% of the $99 billion worth of U.S. livestock and poultry sold.  All these facts and figures can be daunting, so consider this - individuals, families, family held corporations and partnerships make up 99% of U.S. farm ownership.  The American agriculturalist is truly the original small businessman.

State Production Facts - So, where does Nebraska stand nationally?  Nebraska is first in the nation in red meat production and commercial cattle slaughter.  We are also second in total cattle and calves and cattle on feed.  What does this mean for the state?  According to the Nebraska Beef Council, it’s the state’s single largest industry and the engine that powers the state’s economy. The multiplied impact of the $6.5 billion in cattle sales each year is $12.1 billion. Cattle-related employment means income for businesses in towns and cities across the state. In short, the beef cattle industry has an unmistakable impact on almost all other economies in Nebraska.

Impact - In terms of cattle feeding, Nebraska is unique.  Nearly 5 million head are finished and marketed here with a human population of 1.8 million people.  Texas feeds a third more cattle than we do, but with a population 14 times that of Nebraska.  To the east, Iowa markets less than 2 million cattle with a population nearly twice that of Nebraska.  In addition, cattle and calves are top in cash receipts in Nebraska – ahead of corn, soybeans, hogs and all other Ag commodities.  What does this mean?  From farms and ranches to big cities, the standard of living in other states is not nearly as closely tied to beef as Nebraska’s.

As you enjoy Beef Month with us, take time to consider what our local cattlemen contribute to the local, state and national economy.  Have a steak, brisket or burger and celebrate the families who work hard every day – through rain, snow, drought, and dust – to raise the highest quality beef in the world.

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