Cattle industry in crisis
Cattlemen struggle as their industry shrinks and large meat-packers increase market control.
Friday, May 20, 2011 - 17:47
CATTLE CORRAL: Small ranchers struggle to survive with big meat-packers. (Photo: Library of Congress/Flickr)
Cattle ranchers met in Fort Collins, Colo., last summer to discuss the future of their industry. Cattle ranchers are facing very hard times. The number of U.S. cattle producers has plummeted from 1.6 million in 1980 to 950,000 today. The price a rancher receives for a pound of beef has decreased from $1.97 to 93 cents between 1980 and 2009. Small ranch operators are facing decreasing profits in hard economic times. It is becoming harder for them to find purchasers of their cattle; often big meat-packer corporations choose to buy from only large-feed lots. Mom-and-pop cow-calf producers are at the bottom of the cattle industry pyramid.
Ranchers are in for the long haul it seems. They face concerns on land and overgrazing, rising feed and fuel costs, and decreasing demand for red meat as eco-conscious consumers switch to vegetarian diets. As is the case in many American industries — collapse or revolution is on the horizon.