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August 2008 Archive for Out to Pasture

RSS By: Steve Cornett, Beef Today

Read the latest blog from Steve Cornett.

Report from France: the horse meat is good

Aug 20, 2008
By Steve Cornett

The only horse meat we’ve found in Paris was good. Succulent, in fact.

I promised to check out the horse meat, you may recall, because of all the controversy surrounding the horse slaughter business in the U.S., where we have congress persons convinced it is their place to tell the French what is uncivilized.

Fortunately, we had a trip to Europe planned, and it seemed to make sense that I would look into the culinary habits of this backwards country while here.

Let me tell you something: Horsemeat is among the least disgusting things they eat on this side of the Atlantic. Go to England and try some blood sausage. Come to Paris and try the “preserved chicken.” These people pickle poultry and eat it. No wonder they're so cranky.

We’ve been here four days now. We’ve eaten in a different restaurant every meal. The only horse meat I’ve seen offered was in one hamburger, and it mentioned the word “cheval” only in the small print.

I was going to order it to report for you, first person, but it said right there on the menu that it was succulent, and I decided to take their word for it. I don’t think they would say that if it weren’t true.

I’ve checked out several grocery stores, as well. I find no fresh horse, and darned little fresh beef, for that matter.

But when you order a steak over here, you can understand why somebody might resort to eating horse. They don’t have a cattle feeding industry, you know, and their cows are mostly dual-use things. The meat is tough to the point of stringy. I have not seen nor tasted a fleck of marbling in 10 days.

They know how to cook in France, you know. Their thin little bits of meat are tasty, but even a great chef can only do so much in a country where everything chews like flank steak.

I guess these guys like the meat they have. But don't you suppose that one reason the per capita beef consumption in the European Union is less than half that of the U.S. is the fact that their beef isn’t very good.

They’d rather eat pork and poultry—and they eat more of each than we do, along with ducks and geese and rabbits. It makes you wonder what will happen as our access to this market improves. As one of the people we met here says, "the native palate vareees" but I can't imagine a palate that appreciates these wonderful pastries wouldn't adjust quickly to American beef. 

Moreover, it makes me wonder how dangerous it is for us to be talking about producing more grassfed beef in the U.S.

The flavor and succulence of U.S. beef strikes me as a good selling point, especially after a few days without it. 

Britain's pricey take on steak

Aug 13, 2008

Your reporter is making a bit of a sacrifice here. Regular blog responder Nuffeld offered this advice last week when we visited the concept of suddenly higher beef prices:

Tuesday, August 05, 2008 9:48 AM by: Nuffield
The price of a porterhouse in the US is 1/3 of the cost of the equivalent cut in Europe. This fact was from a mate of mine out of UBS. All eyes are on what is likely to happen to US meat values in the coming year. Exports will drive this story ... and it will surprise how the removal of trade restrictions from the past will likely accommodate the movement of your cheap meat. Lets see where the trade goes ...

You can get a pretty bland steak for
$40 in London.

This is something we need to know about, so here I am in London. Eating beef to see how high priced it is. I’m not sure what is the equivalent cut of a porterhouse. But yesterday I paid 21 sterling, which would be the equivalent of $39, for a grass fed, perhaps cow, T-bone.

It was tough and poorly marbled. It was what one would expect to eat at one of those low-end steak houses in the States. Except it was $39. Ala carte if you don’t count the mushy tomato.

I’ve been looking at the beef in the grocery, as well. No porterhouses, but the vacuum packed sirloin looks to be the equivalent of $8.75 per pound.

Again, this is London. These are a people without taste buds. I’m a bit surprised the t-bone wasn’t boiled. But this weekend, we’re heading for France.
I’ll look into the horse meat issue while I’m there.


A price explosion on the horizon

Aug 04, 2008
By Steve Cornett

           Over at the new cattle discussion site, I notice that there is still a lot of concern about the future of cattle prices.
            One of the AgWeb regular commenters, who signs himself as Nuffield is, on the other hand, all bulled up.
            I’m not sure fed prices will hit the goals suggested by winter futures prices, but I’m more bullish than the bears. I recall the time in the 70’s when we were all just about to give up after years of liquidation. At the time, I was helping at Texas Cattle Feeders Association and Jim Gill, who recently retired as head of their market department, talked me into putting out a news release predicting a “price explosion” one day soon.
            That is exactly what happened a very few weeks later. And it’s what has to happen sometime in the next few years if not months.
            The reason is simple: You can’t keep producing a product at a loss. Finally, supply gets low enough to return a profit. When it does, we’ll all hold heifers and that will acerbate the shortage and push prices higher yet. Then, of course, we’ll hold too many too long and start the cycle all over again.
            I know. I know. All the guys smarter than me with real educations and all say the cattle cycle is dead. It may be, but I won’t believe it for a long time. I wish I could. What I think we have, instead, is just a long downsizing of the industry. We will at some point get small enough for the survivors to make money.
            We’re a long way from that in this under a dollar range.
            The problem is how low we have to take supply in this weak economy to get the price reaction. The question is how many cattle will be around to enjoy the good times when they come.
            It seems like more economist types think we’re getting closer. Purdue’s Chris Hurt
Seems to think we’re closer. His take is that the growth in ethanol demand will slow down and exports will pick up and we’ll get some relieve in feed prices and some increased sales of the stuff we sell overseas.
That would sure be nice. This latest inventory marked yet another year of liquidation. We mustn’t keep killing this factory or we’re going to give away more and more freezer space at the supermarket. As we’ve seen since the 70’s, that space is hard to regain once it’s lost.
 But unless we get some recovery in pasture conditions in crucial areas or some serious relief in grain prices or that big bump in fed cattle prices, I suppose we’ll keep downsizing.
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