Jennings: May is BEEF Month
There are many opportunities to celebrate during the month of May. Mother’s Day, graduations, weddings, the end of the school year. Personally, my favorite reason to celebrate is that May is beef month. Then again, I consider every month to be beef month, but May is the month of official recognition in South Dakota and many other states across the U.S.
I am very proud to be a member of the beef industry. It is an industry with a storied history, often immortalized in movies, songs, and poems. Most of us in the industry don’t often experience the romantic conditions portrayed in the media, but I still enjoy the lifestyle. One aspect the media often fails to show is the hard work beef producers put into improving their product.
Not all steaks are created equal. Many factors go into raising an animal that will yield a great eating experience.
Determining the meat quality of a steer starts at conception. The old sayings “like father like son” or “you just can’t escape genetics” certainly apply to cattle production. Our industry has worked very hard to improve the genetic makeup of the nation’s beef herd. We have developed metrics for evaluating and measuring beef carcass quality through traits such as marbling, tenderness, and rib eye area. Armed with that data we are able to identify the genetic lines of cattle that produce higher quality meat for the consumer.
Change doesn’t come easily; it can take three generations of a focused breeding program to significantly change the carcass quality of a beef animal. I won’t see the results of the breeding decisions I make in 2022 until at least 2024, and the next generation won’t come along until 2025.
Our handling techniques and facility designs have also greatly improved. Through research we have discovered the effects of stress on cattle as young as baby calves, and have found that it can affect meat quality two years later. Beef producers work very hard during storms to protect cattle from the wind during winter storms and offer cattle a dry place to lie down. We have learned from people such as Temple Grandin and Bud Williams on how to design facilities that cattle feel comfortable in and low stress handling techniques that work with their instincts. We also continue to develop health, feed, and mineral programs that benefit cattle and in turn benefit the producers and consumers.
These and many other steps have resulted in tremendous improvement in beef quality and the eating experience of consumers. We continue to look for and develop new innovations to advance animal health, comfort, quality and profitability. That is why I am proud to be a part of this industry.
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