Live cattle sale prices have been trending downward since September. That might worry cattle producers, but they hope it will result in increased demand.
“Supply and demand works,” said Lincolnville cow and calf producer Mark Harms. “You always want your product to be priced according to value. The consumer decides what to buy. My hope is they would keep on buying beef.”
But even the price of ground beef has grown to where people tend to buy less of it and turn to cheaper alternatives like pork and chicken.
According to beef industry experts, U.S. beef consumption per person is the lowest since 1970.
The Kansas Livestock Association of which Harms is a member met Dec. 4 in Wichita and approved measures to support a five-year plan that was developed earlier this year by industry leaders to increase demand, especially in other countries.
The goal is to increase demand by 2 percent every year from 2016 through 2020.
According to Harms, beef has always commanded a premium over alternative meats, but the sharp increase in beef prices at the same time that production of pork and chicken rapidly increased has led consumers to turn to other, cheaper alternatives for some of their protein needs.
Harms said export demand continues to grow.
“There are countries that couldn’t even afford hamburger in the past, but with improving economies they want beef,” he said.
He said 96 percent of the beef produced in the U.S. is exported, and that is why KLA pushes to establish free and open markets around the world.
“Free and open markets are the best in the long run,” he said. “There are a lot of consumers in those countries.”
He acknowledged that the U.S. imports beef, as well, but that is part of free trade.
“Exports add to the value of each carcass,” he said. “As long as we are exporting more in dollars than we are importing, we’re better off.”
The KLA supports an animal identification system that will make it easier to track disease outbreaks. The group passed 55 resolutions at its meeting.
“You have to set goals in order to achieve them,” Harms said.
The association has 5,200 members and is funded through voluntary dues paid by the members.