American consumers will have a near-record amount of red meat on the market, an economist told those attending the Range Beef Cow Symposium November 28-30 in Cheyenne, but he was far from pessimistic.
Exports are high, imports are declining, and domestic demand remains high, Jim Robb told the more than 700 attendees at the symposium.
“The number one that got us here today is the nature of the retail marketplace is changing dramatically, and beef being the key thing used to bring people into a store,” he says.
Exactly the kind of outlook organizers hoped those attending the late-November conference would take back to ranches and other related agribusinesses.
“We hope they take home some optimism,” notes Steve Paisley, the University of Wyoming Extension beef cattle specialist, and major organizer of the symposium. “There’s still opportunity for profitability and improvement in production.”
Ditto, adds Mike Day, who presided over morning sessions the first day.
“The biggest is new ideas,” says Day, head of the Department of Animal Science at the University of Wyoming. “Am I doing what I can to be the most efficient? The most profitable? They might go home and not change a thing, but they know what some of the options are and what the impacts are.”
The conference is a joint effort coordinated by the extension programs of South Dakota State University, Colorado State University, the University of Nebraska, and the University of Wyoming.
The symposium – held every other year and rotated through the extension programs – offered more than two days of user information, something Paisley says separates the symposium from other livestock conferences.
“We made it a point to gear it toward producers,” he notes. “There are not a lot of academic presentations, not a lot of literature cited. We spend a lot of time selecting speakers who are going to communicate well with ranchers.”
Robb told attendees new product avenues such as the increasing demand for pet food, is boosting the industry, and the increasing number of options to have products delivered to homes has seen beef used to entice to consumers into stores.
“This industry has become very competitive,” says Robb, director of the LMIC for the past 19 years. “They (stores) are fighting for consumers. How have they done that? They have used beef as the item to bring people in.”
This was Day’s first symposium, and says he used to watch from afar with a touch of jealousy because of the speakers and topics addressed.
“I would say to myself, “Man! I’d love to hear that woman, that man, that person,’” says Day. “The educational benefit – that’s why you see 700 people here. They come here to learn.”
Ranchers seem to like that the symposium is university-run, not by businesses.
“We select speakers that are recognized leaders in the industry, and they don’t have hidden agendas. Speakers with the beef producers’ best interests in mind,” says Paisley. “There are a lot of livestock meetings out there, but this is one of the few remaining producer-based they can come and learn something from this they aren’t going to learn anywhere else.”