Weekly livestock news: February 6, 2023

U.S. beef cow herd drops to lowest level since 1962: USDA

The U.S. beef cow herd dropped to its lowest level since 1962, totaling 28.9 million as of January 1, down 3.6% from a year earlier, USDA data showed. This came after severe drought raised costs for livestock feed, Reuters reports. Ranchers increasingly sent cows to slaughter last year instead of keeping them to reproduce, as dry weather reduced the amount of pasture available for grazing in the western United States and on the Plains. A tight labor market also limited slaughtering at meatpacking plants. Declining cattle supplies are expected to keep meat prices high for consumers, analysts said.

Vilsack pushes for support of small operations in next farm bill

The Biden administration is committed to supporting small and midsize farm operations, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week, outlining a vision for a more competitive agriculture economy as Congress begins debating the country’s largest farm spending bill. He said farmers should be educating lawmakers about the importance of programs that support climate-friendly growing practices and that help expand capacity for small- and medium-scale meat processing facilities. The farm bill is passed every five years; the current one expires September 30, Reuters reports.

Merck survey highlights consumer demand for transparency in animal protein

Two-thirds of consumers say transparency in animal protein is extremely or very important, according to a new survey released by Merck Animal Health. The company’s first-ever consumer transparency study asked roughly 1,000 respondents about their desire for transparency in animal protein and their perceptions of industry transparency in animal welfare and sustainability. “Transparency” was defined as knowing how food was grown, raised and made. More than 50% of consumers surveyed said they were willing to pay a 5% premium for transparency on the food label, according to Merck.

USDA’s Cattle Contract Library aims to help producers negotiate better sales terms

A new online “Cattle Contract Library” launched by the USDA will allow users to search terms and information contained in active contracts used for the purchase of fed cattle. It will also have information on commonly used cattle contract terms. The library was mandated by the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act. Its goal is to help cattle producers negotiate better terms, monitor risks and capitalize on production opportunities, Feedstuffs reports.

Livestock Marketing Association announces new student scholarship program

The Livestock Marketing Association announced it will award five scholarships of $2,500 each to students who plan to use their career “to advocate for or advance the livestock marketing industry.” The program is open to applicants who are graduating high school seniors or currently enrolled at an accredited postsecondary institution with a GPA of at least 2.0. They also need a recommendation from an active LMA member. Applications are open until March 31.

Netherlands group will study cultivated meat production on conventional farms

RESPECTfarms, a Netherlands-based organization that researches and promotes cultivated meat, has launched a feasibility study on cultured meat production at conventional farms. The project has received funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds. “In the next 18 months, RESPECTfarms aims to prove the concept of producing cultivated meat on conventional farms by designing a cultivated meat farm and a digital prototype,” according to the announcement.