U.S. looks to Australia to meet grass-fed beef supply

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Grocers are importing grass-fed beef products to meet growing domestic demand and saving up to a dollar per pound compared to U.S. options.

A report from NPR says U.S. consumers are increasingly attracted to grass-fed beef products. One Missouri ranch has 10,000 acres dedicated to raising thousands of grass-fed cattle, but is losing sales due to cheaper options abroad.

Patricia Whisnant says her operation, Rain Crow Ranch in southern Missouri, has attracted some big customers including Whole Foods, but has missed some opportunities as well. Whisnant says a potential customer opted for an Australian supplier who could provide the beef for 75 cents to a dollar cheaper per pound.

Conditions in Australia are better suited for raising grass-fed beef. Curt Lacy, an agricultural economist at the University of Georgia, told NPR the country’s low-cost, open space and weather system, where temperatures remain above freezing, allows it to keep livestock grazing all year.

Large-scale operations in Australia, where grass-fed production accounts for 70 percent of the country’s beef production, allows for efficiencies in everything from processing to shipping.

Brazil and Uruguay are also exporting a large quantity of grass-fed beef.

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October, 06, 2013 at 07:31 AM

My neighbor is the son of a Australian cattle rancher and cattle production there depends even more on rain. Their business model is to keep bullocks just alive on pasture until it rains then finish them and sell. It is not uncommon to have four year old cattle waiting for rain. Not a very reliable or prime product.

Patricia Whisnant    
Missouri  |  October, 07, 2013 at 11:13 AM

This misrepresents what I had to say!! See some follow up comments on my blog http://blog.americangrassfedbeef.com/npr-interview-american-grass-fed-beef/. Since grassfed became a buzz word in the market it has shown significant growth each year and that demand reflects more than just the word. Consumers come to grassfed because they see it as healthier, more humane, better for the land and of excellent quality showing a more pure and clean flavor. Most envision a local pastoral agricultural model where animals graze on open pasture (what a ruminant animal is intended to do both biologically and behaviorally), are treated with high animal welfare, are not fed antibiotics and are not fed synthetic hormones. Under the USDA, grassfed is defined by the feeding practice alone and does not make any additional claims. It can mean feedlot raised on harvested forage, fed antibiotics and hormones to speed growth and be comingled with thousands of beef from half way around the world. The American Grassfed Association clearly highlights the difference and has put in place a 3rd party certification program to enlighten the consumer who cares about these claims. In addition, many Americans choose to support American family farms which greatly influences the economics of our rural families and communities. Grassfed remains a niche market but the demand is not just for the beef but encompasses many consumers who choose to vote for what exists in the world by how they spend their dollars. Many believe that building stronger farm families in a more local agricultural system builds a stronger America.

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