By Jared Wareham
For most of the 20th Century, our planet was engulfed in a race to stockpile arms and secure military supremacy. Nations tied economic sustainability to becoming a nuclear superpower. Prevailing wisdom suggested a magnanimous show of force would secure a country’s future as a legitimate stakeholder in world affairs.
As the world’s population grew, this strategy eroded. You can’t feed a nation bullets and bombs. Now, we find ourselves embarking on the next great battle for global survival. This time, the price of national security will be closely tethered to the proliferation of agriculture and the ability to feed the world.
The investments large countries such as China are making in the agricultural infrastructures of other
nations is a key indicator the race to secure global food supply chains is well underway. These global competitors are harnessing methods we’ve perfected to propel themselves forward to keep pace with our production capacities. However, will they exercise the same standard of food safety, best-practice animal handling and food quality we are known for?
“How do we maintain the level of protection we currently offer for our customers around the world?” asks Jack Lavers, second vice president of the California Cattlemen Association. “Other competing countries are
nowhere near as regulated as the American rancher with regards to food safety, labeling and animal wellness.”
Production standards, product labeling and focus on consumer safety need to be the same globally. Hopefully U.S. ranchers can leverage a standard for global production equality with the World Trade Organization (WTO), through the National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA).
Currently, NCBA is lobbying for completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). When enacted, the TPP should facilitate the emergence of substantial markets for both high-quality meats and beef byproducts throughout Southeast Asia. Byproducts such as beef tongue and brains draw strong demand as an export product to other countries. Since these items are not readily consumed domestically, access to the global marketplace captures significant value for products normally seen as a waste.
To understand the steadily increasing global demand for beef, examine the dynamics of socioeconomics. Segments of the world’s protein consumer base are gradually becoming more middle class—bringing more disposable income. When income levels begin to rise, higher quality food products (such as beef) are often among the more sought-after items.
Certified Angus Beef reports steady increases in the demand for their brand of quality U.S.-raised beef in European markets, as well as others.
With growing beef demand and mounting competition in the race to feed the world, it is important we continue to make conscientious decisions in beef improvement. When buying herd bulls or replacement heifers, consider product quality as one of your selection criteria. A high-value product will continue to generate demand both domestically and abroad, which in turn will help us all remain sustainable for generations to come.