Iowa Public Television


Beef, Pork and Poultry Wait for Future

posted on March 12, 2004

Anyone who doubts we live in a global economy need look no further than the U.S. beef industry. Following the discovery of a single case of Mad Cow disease in Washington state last December, some 30 nations banned U.S. beef from their shores. Though only 10 percent of U.S. beef is exported, there still have been widespread consequences.

--Job losses have swept through the U.S. meatpacking industry, with hundreds laid off in the wake of the export bans.

--Tyson Foods, the world's largest meat company, says the loss of overseas business cost the company $61 million in its fiscal first quarter.

--And, based largely on demands from foreign customers, plans for increased testing and livestock identification programs are moving forward.

Against that backdrop, USDA this week released its monthly outlook on U.S. beef production and exports.

Beef, Pork and Poultry Wait for Future This week, the USDA released its monthly projection for red meat production in the US. Tipping the scale at 25.3 billion pounds, the number is a mere 204 million pounds lower than last month's estimate.

Overall, it would appear the discovery of BSE, or Mad Cow Disease, late last year has not weakened domestic consumption. Even with the ever-so-slight reduction in projected output, USDA officials say demand for beef has remained firm. Prices, though not as high as late last year, remain competitive. Some of that can be attributed to there being fewer cattle-on-feed than there were a year ago.

The big question centers on what will happen later in the year. The single US case of Mad Cow, and the single recall of 38 thousand pounds of beef, has not shaken domestic consumer confidence.

Negotiations are on-going between US and foreign export markets, but no resolution to the bans on US beef has been forthcoming with the exception of Mexico. According to USDA officials, product is expected to begin moving over the southern border this week.

With most borders closed to US beef exports, pork and poultry potentially would be in a position to benefit. But the recent outbreak of bird flu has closed export markets and US pork producers are claiming Canada is dumping pork on the domestic market.

USDA officials predict the poultry market will right itself as foreign nations receive assurance that exported birds are coming from bird-flu-free zones. Meanwhile, the National Pork Producers Association has filed a petition calling on the federal government to impose a tariff on Canadian pork exports.

Tags: agriculture beef chickens future Mad Cow meat news pigs pork poultry USDA