In my last scribblings I addressed the problem of chasing “trends” in breeding. Following the latest fad, as the cattle industry has done for the past 50 years, has lead us up a dead end. You cannot, I argued, change bulls every three years or so and have any true idea of where all these sires are taking you. And I asked the question: Who is breeding to establish a consistent gene pool with the focal point being the performance and quality of milk and meat raised on grass?

The answer to that genetic question is complicated by the additional question: how much energy and from what source did we provide our calves to allow them to develop their genetic potential, especially after weaning?

Artificial feeds do not give us a true picture of genetic expression. That in itself poses a question the commercial cattle people have not yet asked. Of course, “the system” has not addressed the question. In fact, the system is determined not to ask the question.

The flat and ugly truth is that the cattle industry today exists primarily to develop and re-sell energy required to develop and finish the calf for the System’s profit. Let the producer finish his product, and the profit stays on the farm. The System’s answer is the final phases of the beef chain. It is in the feed lot and in the next five owners of the animal that the profits are focused.

Let me say a word about this “System”, since you notice I’ve switched to the capital “S”. I am not much of a conspiracy theorist and so I’m not suggesting several evil people gathered in a board room in Omaha or New York or Washington and designed this System. It just grew out of the several conditions that developed as our industrial economy matured just before and after World War Two. I’ve commented on that earlier.

But I do think that it has become a conscious conspiracy among these forces and who are today determined to protect their economic self-interest. They are using all the tools of the traditional monopolist, including threats and intimidation, to maintain their domination of the industry they have controlled for 50 years and more.

When the producer grows the final product, the feed-lot (the first part of the System) is short-changed. When the producer provides all the energy for (grass) finishing, the System components of distribution and sales are short-changed. The System cannot tolerate natural beef production, traditional animal husbandry and direct marketing. And that is why Big Ag, Big Ag Schools and Big Government so violently crack down on those of us growing, finishing and selling our own beef.

The System is as heavily invested in constantly changing genetics as it is in the feed lot. Constant genetic change cannot be managed effectively by the producer; it is a disaster for his bottom line. But those same changes are profitable for the System. The people down the line in the beef chain are not concerned about quality, only margins. The producer who does care about the quality of his product, as difficult as that is while chasing trends, cannot find the market for his efforts and is forced back into selling his five-weight calf at commodity prices!

Meanwhile, when the System produces the tainted product we have seen recalled in record numbers in recent days, it closes ranks and no one dares suggest what happened is the inevitable result of their “modern” thinking. Instead, it becomes one more excuse for a smokescreen. All the more reason, the System argues to unthinking politicians and the press, that we must shutdown all those independent farms.

Still, I don’t think the battle is hopeless. In fact, I see reason for optimism in what is happening today. To capitalize on this latest trend, one the System has not yet figured out how to control (but they are desperately searching for a way), requires thoughtful producers dedicated to providing quality beef to our customers. Happily, it is a trend that could reap the greatest profits…for us!

More to come, you can be sure.