Price discrepancy and foreign sourced meat: problems of cattle market

Published: May. 15, 2020 at 6:52 PM MDT
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With meat flying off the shelves at grocery stores, one would think cattlemen are getting the profit for all the meat sold. But that's not the case. "Come fall, I really don't know what to expect," Liz May, a rancher based in Kyle lets out a sigh.

Cattlemen are not the ones making money-- unlike many other issues right now, this isn't COVID related. It's been an on-going issue for 30 years.

"We have 4 major packers in United States that process 85% of the meat." And May says, the meat packing industry has been able to find a way to increase profits, such as, "... import [meat] from 21 countries. And the recent shipment came in from Namibia Africa. They don't have the same standards we have. That meat can come in at cheaper than we can produce. So what they do is they bring the cheaper meat in to mix with our meat. So they don't have to pay us."

But most consumers do not know where the meat at the grocery store comes from. "They see the USDA stamp on it, they automatically think that's American meat. That's not, that doesn't mean it's American meat," May explains.

"I've got a gentleman who called me a month or so ago, he had a thousand heads of fed cattle ready to go and couldn't get a bid on." May points out that major meat packers do not have to bid on American cattle. "We don't have a market anymore because it's all controlled by a handful of corporations." May adds that she's surrounded by cattle but that doesn't mean people can sell meat on their own easily.

May says the cattle industry affects other businesses as well. And one way to help is to get informed about this unbalanced situation. "We have to remember it is the number one industry in the state [South Dakota], if we don't get this straightened out, it's not going to be good."