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Are Foreign Imports "Local"?

written by

Ben Simmons

posted on

February 19, 2024

Good Morning from your farmer,

It may surprise you that I do receive AND read several weekly newsletters from other farms that I know and trust. Last week, Paul Brown who owns Nourished By Nature in Bismark, ND (son of Gabe Brown) wrote a really good article on import beef and he agreed to let me share with my customers. So, here goes!

If you recall, the last newsletter we sent out referred to the statistic that today, only 2% of the population in the US produces food for the entire country (plus imports) as compared to 17% in 1940. This is unprecedented and it makes me wonder, what happened over the last 80 years? And where will we be in another 80? No wait, how about 10 years??? Will all US food production be outsourced?

While there are many reasons for this, I'd like to take a look specifically at the beef industry and one of the main reasons that I believe the number of ranchers has greatly diminished in this country.

Selling into the commodity market means this: When the rancher takes his cattle to the sale barn, it doesn't matter what they've been fed, the life they've lived, the poisons they've been injected with, the only thing that matters is what they weigh. Quality is not taken into consideration. So the rancher is completely dependent upon what the market price is that day. This is how the majority of beef is sold in the US.

While the commodity market is an "easier" way for ranchers to sell their beef, it does have wild swings and can be very unpredictable for the reasons outlined below.

If we look at the influence behind the commodity beef market, the industry is now mainly controlled by only four large corporations, those being (Tyson Foods, Cargill, Brazilian Owned JBS, & National Beef).

These four companies currently comprise 85% of the beef market share in the United States.

Even though
there are anti-trust laws and legislation such as the Packers and Stockyards Act (est.1921) in place to prevent monopolization, poor enforcement of these safeguards due to the revolving door of executives within the public and private sectors has led to a very monopolized industry. We will have to dive into this deeper in another newsletter.

If you remember back in 2020 when retail beef prices skyrocketed during the pandemic, it was mainly because some of the massive slaughter plants that these four run were temporarily shut down (only a few days) due to labor constraints. This left many grocery store meat cases empty for some time. That is just one example of how much influence on the U.S. beef market they have.

These four have also taken advantage of the loose labeling laws required by the US Department of Agriculture. Did you know that beef and pork products sold in this country can be labeled as "Product of the USA" even if they were born, raised and slaughtered in other countries? All that the USDA requires is that these foreign beef and pork products must be "further processed" once they reach the US before they are put on a retail shelf available to the public.

Further processing can be as simple as taking a primal whole tenderloin and cutting it into portioned steaks, or grinding some trim and making a bratwurst. Think this is a little misleading and lacking transparency? You can learn more about COOL here.

All four companies also have subsidiaries in many other countries from which they can easily import beef from. So, if the price of domestic cattle gets to be too high, they can simply import cheaper foreign beef and sell it under the same label as beef that was raised and processed here. Between the big four companies, I counted over 100 brands that they market their beef through on the retail level here in the US.

Unfortunately, it is not only large retail grocery stores carrying their products, but many local retailers and butcher shops too. I felt the need to write about this because recently, when we picked up some of our lamb from a local processor, they had packed it in recycled boxes. Here is a picture that I took of those boxes.


Double R Ranch Beef- parent company Agri Beef owned by Robert Rebholtz, Jr.

America's Heartland Beef- owned by American Foods Group who's been exporting meat products out of the US for 30 years. Parent company is Rosen's Diversified.

IBP Beef Tyson Fresh Meat- parent company Tyson Foods

WR Reserve Premium Angus Beef- owned by Noah's Ark Processors LLC, with parent company, Total Corporate Resources LLC out of New Jersey. Primarily exports Kosher and Halal meat to Israel.

Canadian Diamond Beef JBS- parent company JBS

As you can see, two of the boxes are labeled with the 'Big 4' companies, JBS Canadian Beef and Tyson's IBP Beef. So the fresh meat case in this butcher shop in small town, ND is offering beef that was potentially imported. I would imagine that when most people in that town go there to support their local butcher, they don't realize that they might also be supporting one of the 'big four'. The irony is that while I'm positive there are plenty of beef cattle raised less than 5 miles away from the butcher shop, it is easier and cheaper for them to buy primal cuts of boxed beef from these multinational conglomerates.

You can see where the American cattlemen lose in this commodity game. While I am sure there is both good and bad imported beef, it really does make one question the manipulation of the market. Also, imagine the price that producers in other countries are getting for their cattle if the big four can ship it around the world and still make a large profit.

This is one of the consequences of fast, cheap food and is why consumers voting with their food dollar is so important. Every dollar spent can be a vote for either a better future of food and how it is raised, or one that continues to support the degradation of rural America.

This is why I am so thankful for your support of Nature's Gourmet Farm, allowing us to completely exit the commodity beef system so we can market our products in a way where quality IS taken into consideration.

While the "Big 4" have economies of scale and supply chains that we cannot compete with in many ways, we know that more and more consumers are very concerned about where their food "actually does come from" and appreciate the importance of a relationship with their LOCAL farmer.

Beth & I as well as those who help here on the farm appreciate your business. It makes a difference to our farm.

At Nature's Gourmet Farm, our intent is to create a community that evolves around one of the most intrinsically important things of the ages, and that’s the provision of sustenance. That's our passion - to raise healthy food to nourish families and strengthen immune systems.

If you are new to our farm then maybe you have been looking for premium ALL NATURAL GOODNESS of beef, pork, chicken, and eggs raised on pasture as God intended - with emphasis on Regenerative Principles and NOT conventionally raised animals (with growth hormones, drugs, chemicals, and antibiotics) - and where animals are treated humanely - then you have come to the right farm. Our delivery schedule and product availability are listed below along with order buttons that will take you to our website where you can browse over 90 product choices and place your order from the convenience of your home. It's that simple!

** Product Availability Update **

NOTE: Restocks are made about 6 PM on the dates indicated below!

Chicken - Restocked February 14th. Next restock will be Feb 28th.
Turkey - Whole turkeys are sold out. Restocked Ground, legs, thighs, and wings Jan 31st. Added six whole turkey breasts for pre-order.

Eggs - Restock each Wednesday. Received 950 new pullet hens Thursday, Nov 9th. Pullet production has doubled in the last two weeks and continues to inch up daily

Beef - Next restock will be February 23, 2024.

Pork - Restocked Feb 14th on fresh cuts and about Feb 24th on cured/smoked items. Will have plenty of smoked hams for Easter!

Lamb - Restocked September 13th. Scheduled to process lamb Mar 2024

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