Someone shared an internet article with the PCC Discussion Group that was entitled “Nearly One-In-Four have Tried Meatless Fast Food.” This group loves to discuss things that most cow-calf producers would rather not acknowledge – much less talk about. That’s just our nature. One of the responses came from Dr. Allen Williams, who is an industry expert in grass-fed beef, grazing methodology, regenerative agriculture – and much more. I thought his email was very eye-opening and worth sharing. This is somewhat of a follow-up to last week’s article entitled “Flavorless Beef.”
Fake meat is not going away, and is not just a fad. Too much has been invested and too many consumers simply have no dedicated allegiance to beef (or other meat proteins). They want flavor, juiciness, eating quality and perceived health benefits. Those of us in the beef industry ignore this at our own peril and demise.
I am writing a series of articles on fake meats and the unintended consequences, but this will not stem the tide of consumer demand. It will simply point out the facts of how and why we got to this point.
All the major packers have invested heavily in fake meats and continue to invest. They have no allegiance to those of us who are livestock producers. Their allegiance is to the customer who will pay for whatever food products that can be sold. They will not hesitate to shut down their packing plants in the future – IF fake meats dominate. They view their packing plants as liabilities anyway – OSHA, animal welfare audits, workman’s comp, HACCP, ICE, HR, etc., etc.
We have to point the finger back at ourselves as being culpable in this. The beef industry (of which we are a part) has put out an ever-declining product in terms of end product eating quality. The fact is an Impossible Burger patty IS juicier and has MORE flavor than the typical fast food beef hamburger patty. It is a highly processed food and terrible for you from a health standpoint, but the consumer perceives otherwise due to the marketing jargon. The typical fast food beef hamburger is barely tolerable. It is cooked to the consistency of a lump of coal, has little to no flavor, and little to no juiciness. Because the Impossible Burger does not have to be cooked to temps of 165 or higher and its number one ingredient is water, it is a juicy product.
There are numerous reasons why today’s beef is far more bland in flavor and far less juicy than it used to be. As stated in an earlier discussion thread, DDGs are a big part of that problem. However, so are the GMO grains (genetically modified), total mixed rations, the aggressive implant and beta-agonist programs, poor genetics, etc., etc.
If we continue to rely on packers to be our customer, we are making a huge mistake. If we do not figure out how to take better control of our own markets and produce a better end product, we will lose out to the fake meats. Slowly but surely. If that happens, only one in three of you will still be ranching ten to fifteen years from now.
Do not ignore this, thinking it will go away! Take control of your own destiny! That is a huge part of being a Herd Quitter.
For the most part, I agree with Allen. I hope you are able to see what is going on – with open eyes and with an open mind. This is NOT the time to hide your head in the sand and hope things will get back to the old normal. If you are a cow-calf producer, the future of your family and the future of your business are at stake. We MUST make a concerted effort to Make BEEF Great Again. I do not think we will be able to save the entire beef industry. Most of the industry does not want to be saved. We do, however, need to save ourselves and protect our interests.
Grassfed beef has gained a significant market share over the last several years. With an annual growth rate of 25% and a market share that doubled from 5% in 2015 to a projected 10% in 2019, the grassfed sector is the only bright spot in the beef industry. Like fake meat, grassfed beef is NOT going away – and it is NOT just a fad. Consumers are looking for a healthier product that is produced in a more natural and sustainable way – and they are willing to pay a substantial premium for it. There will be huge opportunities for advancement for those who choose to get involved.