Got a beef with the meat industry? You’re not the only one, but it’s taken many decades for the industry to assume the shape it has today.
In the first part of Tuesday's Up to Date, we talk about the history of meat production and distribution in the United States. We examine the shift from family to factory livestock farming, how government intervention has affected the industry and how the popularity of organics is changing the conversation.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media
The pork cooler at a Hyvee grocery store in Columbia, Mo., is full of meat. New rules that just went into full effect force meatpackers to detail where much of this meat was born, raised and slaughtered.
A new labeling rule that went into full effect Saturday requires meatpackers and retailers to provide consumers with more information about where their meat comes from.
The country-of-origin labeling mandate (COOL) forces retailers and meatpackers to detail where the livestock from which meat came was born, raised and slaughtered. It applies to certain cuts of beef, veal, chicken, pork, lamb and goat sold in the supermarket. Processed, deli and ground meats are exempt from the new rules.
When a new disease — known as PEDV —turned up in the U.S. hog industry in May and threatened to kill whole litters of piglets, the National Pork Board quickly responded with $450,000 in research funding.
If you’ve experienced sticker shock shopping for ground beef or steak recently, be prepared for an entire summer of high beef prices.
Multi-year droughts in states that produce most of the country’s beef cattle have driven up costs to historic highs. Last year, ranchers culled deep into their herds – some even liquidated all their cattle – which pushed the U.S. cattle herd to its lowest point since the 1950s.
The USDA’s amended COOL rule will require packers and retailers to include more information on labels on beef, pork, lamb, chicken and goat meat, specifically where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.
Currently, labels only require companies to include where the animal was born.
Companies are also now barred from commingling cuts of meat from animals of different origins, which could make it easier to trace contaminated products. The USDA estimates these labeling changes could cost more than 7,000 companies up to $192 million.
And when the hog market plunged to 8 cents a pound in 1998, Iowa producer Randy Hilleman decided it was time to make a change. Hilleman raises Berkshire pigs, a breed that’s fattier than traditional pigs and costs a little more to raise. Back then, that was hurting him.
“If we took them into Marshalltown, [Iowa] to the big packing plant, we would get docked because they’re too fat,” Hilleman said. “What they pay on is lean, and we like to have some fat on ours.”
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. Professions once so famous that they made it into nursery rhymes, but how does modern commerce accommodate traditional business? Butchers and meat shops are still present in town, but how has the independent butcher shop changed with meat preparation moved into grocery stores and other superstores?