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.

Food Safety
5:03 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Missouri Among States Targeted In Beef Recall

Wolverine Packing Co. has recalled 1.8 million pounds of beef due to E. Coli concerns.
Credit 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.

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Up to Date
9:51 am
Tue November 26, 2013

How The U.S. Meat Industry Beefed Up Its Production

Factory farming has become common in the American meat industry.
Credit 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.


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Harvest Public Media
7:50 am
Mon August 12, 2013

Tyson Foods Suspends Use Of Controversial Drug

A pen at a feedlot in central Kansas that houses 30,000 cattle. Feedlots are where cattle are “finished” before slaughter.
Credit 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.

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America's Big Beef
7:42 pm
Thu December 13, 2012

Beef Checkoff Feud Exposes Divide Within Cattle Industry

Allen Berry co-owns a cow-calf operation with his wife near Trenton, Mo. Like all other cow-calf operators, Berry pays into a fund that benefits the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board for each animal sold.
Credit 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.

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America's Big Beef
7:36 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

Beef Feedlots Grapple With Endless Waste

Allan Sents co-owns McPherson County Feeders, a beef feedlot in central Kansas, with his wife Deanna. His 11,000 cattle produce a lot of waste.
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.

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America's Big Beef
5:12 pm
Tue December 11, 2012

Judging A Cow By More Than Its Cover

Owner Rhett Lowderman and his team gather around his prize-winning Hereford, LCC Patton Kiwi 116 ET, which won the Reserve Grand and Champion Intermediate Female Award at the American Royal.
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.

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America's Big Beef
2:15 pm
Tue December 11, 2012

Public Research For Private Interests

Dr. Dan Thomson, a Kansas State veterinary professor and director of the Beef Cattle Institute, holds a "Beef Quality Assurance" training at the Beef Fest in Emporia, Kan., in August.
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.

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Up to Date
10:03 am
Mon December 10, 2012

America's Big Beef

Cow carcasses
Thomas Bjørkan

Just how much influence does Big Beef have in Cowtown?

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Harvest Public Media
1:01 pm
Sun December 9, 2012

Newspaper Series Faults Big Beef

Workers trim beef at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Dakota City, Neb.
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.

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2:35 pm
Fri December 7, 2012

New Reporting Series Covers 'America's Big Beef'

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.

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