America’s Big Beef: An Industry In Transition

From small ranchers to large packers to U.S. dinner tables, the beef industry is a gigantic multi-billion dollar business. Whether you eat it or you don’t, beef is what’s for dinner, what’s for lunch and what’s for breakfast on thousands of Americans’ plates daily.

Harvest Public Media takes a look at America’s beef industry, examining what goes in to our meat. We’re looking at the safety of the meat in our grocery stores and who funds the scientific research on the industry. We’re diving into what goes in to breeding the highest-quality beef, the potential environmental impact of the way conventional cattle are raised, and what might happen if the beef industry continues to consolidate.

You can view and hear more on Big Beef on Harvest Public Media's website.

Patrick Quick / KCUR

In a city known as a cowtown, what are the tastiest burgers around? Enjoy debates about cheese on a burger, house-made ketchup, bun preferences and what to order on the side (hint: it's hard to argue with french fries). We take a trip to an East Bottoms food truck to meet a new burger on the block. Plus, our friends at Harvest Public Media tell us what going on in the industry that brings us burgers: the beef industry.

Guests:

Ranchers Rebel Over Beef Checkoff

Jan 20, 2015
Courtesy Jill Toyoshiba / The Kansas City Star

NEMAHA COUNTY, Kan. – From their small farms set in the rolling hills of northeast Kansas, two ranchers are raising a few cattle, and a lot of Cain.

David Pfrang and Jim Dobbins turned themselves into activists, launched a shadow corporation, got hauled into federal court and had to hire a lawyer.

All over $1.

That buck, though, divides the beef industry. And may influence what you decide to have for dinner.

Neil Rickards / Flickr--CC

Ireland will be the first European Union country allowed to send beef to U.S. dinner tables, more than 15 years after a deadly outbreak of mad cow disease in Europe led U.S. regulators to ban European beef imports.

The ban on EU beef imports was lifted in March and Ireland’s beef production systems passed a U.S. inspection, according to the Irish Agriculture Department.

Courtesy of Beef Products International

The usual food safety advice applies in the latest ground beef recall: Don't order that hamburger rare.

A Michigan-based company has recalled 1.8 million pounds of ground beef earmarked for use at restaurants in four states, including Missouri, for possible E. Coli contamination.

Wolverine Packing Co. issued the recall Monday for distributors in Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio after 11 people became sick. 

Though E. Coli occurs naturally in the gut of cows, it's relatively easy to avoid, says University of Missouri food science professor Azlin Mustapha.

David W. Oliver / Flickr-CC

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.

Guests:

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Tyson Foods, Inc., announced this week that it would soon suspend purchases of cattle that had been treated with a controversial drug, citing animal welfare concerns.

But many in the industry wonder if the real reason is not about cattle, but rather the battle for sales in other countries, where using drugs for meat production is banned.

“I really do think this is more a marketing ploy from Tyson to raise some awareness so they can garner some export business from our overseas export partners,” said Dan Norcini, an independent commodities broker.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

When Allen Berry brought his 11 yearlings to the Green City Livestock Market in central Missouri last month, he paid into a fund that at first blush, seems a bargain.

Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

You think you deal with a lot of bull crap? Allan Sents needs a front-end loader and a dump truck to deal with all the cattle manure he’s up against. Literally.

Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

Backstage behind the cattle pens at the giant livestock show at the American Royal in Kansas City, Mo., “cow fitter” Maddee Moore was awash in glamour goods.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Agricultural colleges in the top five beef-producing states have become quasi-arms of the cattle industry, selling science to corporate bidders who set the research agenda with their dollars.

Thomas Bjørkan

Just how much influence does Big Beef have in Cowtown?

Workers trim beef at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Dakota City, Neb. The plant employs about 4,000 people.
Keith Myers / The Kansas City Star

What should you know about the beef on your table? The Kansas City Star answered that question with a three-part series on the beef industry.

On Monday, Harvest Public Media launches a five-part series called "America’s Big Beef: An Industry in Transition." It's a deep dive into the big business of cattle.