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Food inflation at heart of an evolving world

Progressive Cattleman Editor David Cooper Published on 01 April 2011

Whether or not you’ve been hooked to the TV or Internet watching world events the past few months, it’s obvious that an awakening has jolted certain corners of the globe.

As producers of the world’s food, it’s critical that you pay attention to it.

While the wave of unrest across the Middle East in 2011 speaks volumes about the pursuit for certain liberties, economic experts say true catalyst for a revolt is the necessity of accessible food.

What does a Libyan burning a police station in Benghazi have to do with a cattleman raising Brangus in Texas? More than we probably realize.

And if we don’t see it, perhaps that shows how the American consumer lives in relative bliss about his food supply.

Earlier this year, the front page of a national newspaper had a story comparing the cost of living today versus a few decades ago. It spotlighted the drastic increases in housing, health care, transportation, college education and technology.

Noticeably absent from the list was the cost of food. Clear proof that affordable food has been – and remains – an economic staple for the average American.

That’s going to change quickly as fuel costs, feed prices, commodity shortages and monetary policies result in food inflation.

The increase we see at the local market is nothing compared to the pain felt in emerging nations and the Third World. But the cycle will require its pound of flesh in 2011.

Instability in the Middle East will disrupt oil prices, creating a panic for more ethanol, leading to more crop production for energy supplies.

That will pinch feedstuff and food inventory and spark more competition for the grains of the world – whether in Africa, Asia, the Americas or on your ranch and feedyard.

Perhaps that’s just further proof that “feed the world” isn’t just a slogan for a bumper sticker.

Beef producers succeed with several premiums for their product, none bigger than the ability to create sources of high-protein food for more people around the globe. And in the export boom of 2010, that included exponential growth in the Middle East.

The production methods that have made that quality and quantity of beef possible and affordable over the past few decades may invite the scorn of critics – most of them from nations who don’t worry where to find their next meal.

But it’s fair to say that for most of the world’s population, the problem isn’t with how beef is produced – but rather how there still isn’t enough of it.

And so, on the cusp of what politicians have already called one of the worst recessions ever – we now get to wrestle with a new bear of food inflation.

But as articles in this month’s Progressive Cattleman suggest, if there’s anyone more adept at surviving the chaotic world of supply and demand, it’s the cattle producer.

High feed prices force producers to think strategically, and more efficiently. In spite of a herd decline now three decades old, average dressed weights remain higher than ever – just another testament of sustainable beef production against the tide of political and economic pressures.

While the world may indeed be evolving, the goal of the beef producer – to make food that’s nourishing and affordable – remains the same. As long as the human body and spirit need to be fed, don’t expect it to change.  end_mark


David Cooper

David Cooper
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