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Trade remains crucial to producer profitability

The U.S. has imported a record amount of beef while maintaining strong exports. 

Kentucky cattleman and chairman of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board Andy Bishop says he’s asked a lot if he thinks the U.S. should stop importing beef.  

Here’s how he explains it to producers. “You can feed your cattle a commodity feed for $4.00 a bushel, which is the value of the corn, and you can sell your corn for a premium at $6 a bushel and in turn buy back that commodity blend for $4.00. What would you do,” he says.  “Every producer raise their hands? Say I would sell the corn for six and buy back commodity feed.”

He tells Brownfield the balance of trade between imports and exports of beef is very similar. “With the export market we can send product overseas that doesn’t have as much value in the United States and we can add value to it beef,” he says.  “Think tongue, beef, liver offal.  In return, we buy back lean trim and blend with fat that has very little value here in the United States. But we need to lean trim.”

Bishop says the U.S. is at a deficit for lean trim because cow numbers are down. “Our fat is worth about $.50 a pound,” he says.  “But we can blend it with that lean trim and then sell it back to the consumer in the form of burger at a much higher value.” 

Through the first quarter of 2024, Bishop says exports added more than $400 to the value of a beef carcass for U.S. producers.

AUDIO: Andy Bishop, Cattlemen’s Beef Board

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