Buying directly from the farm will continue to save you money, even during a period of inflation.
The cost to feed your family is at an all time high - up 20% compared to this same time last year. You didn't need me to tell you that - you see it every time you check out at the grocery. You're buying essentially the same items every week, yet the total keeps getting taller. We're told it's inflation and we're still blaming Covid, worker shortage, transportation & supply. I can't speak for anything but the beef industry, but we're seeing price increases in literally every basic need we have.
One of those essentials is beef. It's the center of many family dinners (as it should be) and we're seeing more demand for it as the world continues to realize better incomes and higher living standards. Contrary to what we see in mainstream media, the world is better off than we've ever been. Poverty and third-world living is at an all time low. Agriculture has continued to learn and improve how to feed more people with less resources. Still more work to do, but this is something to celebrate!
And as demand for good beef has grown, the world's top beef producers, our farmers of the United States of America, have hung with the ebbs and flows of low market prices and ever-changing demands.
In 2015, when the United States stopped differentiating between U.S. raised beef and imported foreign beef, cattlemen experienced devastating loss at the market. Because at that point, a consumer at the grocery could no longer choose U.S. versus another country's. It was all thrown into the same packaging, on the same shelf. U.S. Cattlemen weren't going to be rewarded for being U.S. Cattlemen any longer.
The U.S. imported 2.48 BILLION pounds of beef in 2021 - most of which comes from Mexico and Canada - which is down from 2020. Much of this beef is hauled across the border into the United States and processed here - so it can be labeled "Product of US." Does this sound as crooked to you as it does to me?
In turn, our U.S. Beef exports have made notable increases as Japan, Korea & China make substantial purchases during their time of economic growth. Total exports in 2021 hit 3.175 BILLION pounds of U.S. beef shipped out to other countries.
So how does this affect you - an American buying your beef at the grocery store? It's basic economics - the U.S. is selling more of our US beef, and we're buying less foreign to make up the difference. Although quality wise, it would never make up the difference. And you can bet they're selling our US beef at a higher price than what they are buying it for. Yet, because we live in America, the giant packing houses aren't going to pass that cheaper foreign beef price on to you. So you are paying more for beef at the grocery - "because supply is down, packers can't keep up, Covid ...yada, yada"; but there's more to that story as packing houses continue to control the supply and how much leaves the country versus what they bring in. It's not fair and it shouldn't be legal, but it's been happening.
Another thing you'll hear the blame placed on is lower cattle numbers. The USDA reports (that do come directly from cattlemen) shows a decrease in cattle on feed at around 2%. Some are blaming the widespread drought from last year in the western half of the country; others saying it's because the cost of corn is too high to feed. These may be true - but not significant. Cattlemen are cattlemen - no one with skin in the game just quits. No matter the cost or the weather, they work through it. Sometimes I feel the blame gets placed on what the farmer is doing as a "smoke and mirrors" tactic to keep us from putting the packing houses under the microscope.
Buckeye Valley Beef Co-op works directly with a small USDA-inspected, Ohio butcher shop. We work directly with OSU Extension to stay on top of our beef quality and carcass grades. We put in a lot of extra hours after the farm work is done to sell directly to our customers.
Ever since 2020, many consumers quietly stepped away from buying meat at the grocery and sought out local farms to meet their needs. It's been a wonderful transition as it's reconnected the customer to the farmer. Something we were all needing. The transition hasn't slowed down - as grocery prices continue to climb and customers continue to leave that habit and create new ones. They've bought deep freezers to create food stores instead of more frequent, weekly meat purchases. A light was shed on the need for more, smaller processing houses to accommodate this shift. It's an exciting time for farms that put in the extra work to sell directly to customers.
Our farmers co-op was blessed in 2020 with a swell of new customers that have stuck with us ever since. We're creating lifelong relationships - because we all depend on it. Our farms need our customers; our customers kindly say that they need us, too.
Pricing works differently when you buy from a farmer - we make adjustments when necessary, but even those increases are still saving our customers money when purchasing bulk quarters, halves & whole beef shares. Our price increases reflect processing costs and the cost to raise our beef. We worked for several hours at the end of 2021 going over production costs to align our pricing. We want to make sure all of our bases are covered - the price accounts for what we put into raising and selling our beef, but is also fair for the customer.
Our customers constantly remind us of the quality of our beef - that there is no better. That the grocery can't compare. I like the fact that we can work directly with them & have open communication. They can offer us feedback and we can respond. There's no corporate disconnect - it's you, us & the beef. The pricing is simple and real. No world markets involved, just local economics.
So if you've been considering purchasing a beef share - please reach out. We're happy to answer your questions and help you through our process. Whether it's helping you choose your favorite cuts, how much your family would need for six months or a year or more, or our many payment options for every family budget.
Check us out at https://www.buckeyevalleybeef.com/buy-local
Thank you for taking some time to learn more from the farmer's perspective. Open conversations are what drives real change - and we're always willing to learn and grow with you as a consumer.
Have a beautiful Sunday,
Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative
Farmer - Mom - Wife - Co-op Member
For more on the information I've shared today, please reference the following: