November 9, 2000 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Kentucky has the right resources at the right time to build the future of the beef industry and make it very profitable for the Commonwealth's farms. But the world is changing and it will take some serious investment for Kentucky to capture its potential. With just a little change in mind-set, Kentucky cattle producers will be selling more high-quality beef to consumers, who really are the ones dictating the beef industry right now.

"Kentucky has two kinds of beef customers," said Lee Meyer, agricultural economist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "Feedlots want healthy and efficient cows, while beef eaters, at restaurants and grocery stores, demand safe, tender, flavorful, and more convenient products."

Meyer is convinced the secret to giving consumers what they want is a better flow of information up and down the system. Part of that is getting information back to the farmers about their calves, such as information about health in the feedlot, tenderness, consumer approval, etc.

"Source verification is the new approach to quality management," Meyer continued. "That means everyone can identify where that product came from. So it will be possible when you go to the grocery store and buy a cut of meat, to look on the label for a code that shows on what farm that calf was born. The technology uses electronic identification tags."

The technology itself will not propel the beef industry to a profitable future; it will take successful marketing partnerships. Marketing agencies have a lot to do with where calves go after they leave Kentucky.

Farmers need to be rewarded for better quality. That's another reason Meyer believes marketing partnerships are important.

"Better market prices for quality animals will give farmers an incentive to adopt new practices," he said. "We really need investments in traditional technologies like health programs, genetics, and forage management. The market will create demand, but the only way to give the consumers what they want is with better technology."

One way of boosting these investments is with cost-share programs. They are expected to kick-start the adoption of new practices and technology. Meyer said these could be funded with tobacco settlement funds.

Kentucky's beef industry is on its way to taking off with new technology, new partnerships and cost-share efforts. Farmers will not only see higher profits, but they are building a great future for themselves, their communities and the Commonwealth.


Lee Meyer 859-257-7276