A Plea to Cattlemen

How many of us have lost our jobs or have friends or relatives who’ve lost their jobs because the corporation they worked for needed to “cut costs.” To cut costs they simply moved production to China or Mexico. Did those corporations conscientiously consider how this would affect those on their payrolls? We have to say no, because they put their profits ahead of employees. Will corporations in the cattle industry likewise do everything they can to cut their costs now and in the future? You better believe it. Here’s how:

Corporations own the feedlots and large stockyards in this country. Our sale barns sell our cattle to these corporations. And what is a corporation? It is a legal person—a legal fiction—whose sole purpose is to make money. How does a corporation make money? They cut costs and increase profits.

Now, if you wanna get specific, you can increase your profits if you cut your costs. Well, what are the costs of the corporations that own feedlots? Their main cost is the cattle they purchase. If they are going to continue making a profit and even increase those profits, they will not increase those costs. That means that they are not going to put in place a system that will pay more money for the cattle they buy. Remember, these cattle, the cattle you raise, are their costs and they need to cut costs.

At a recent local Cattlemen’s Assocation meeting, a State vet told us that Animal ID would bring us a 2-5% increase in value of our cattle when we sell them. This followed on the heels of his statement that tagging our farms and animals, “is an industry-driven program.” The cattle industry is pushing this. Well, I know I didn’t approach the government to put this in place. I bet you didn’t either. How many suspects does that leave?

Where’s this all going? Ever heard of an introductory sale? Grand Opening Sale? There’s your increase of 2-5% per head. After that, you can count on is this—the ID system you’ve joined will be used by the corporations that buy cattle from your sale barn to cut their costs. In other words, the extra information that these corporations now have will be used against you to discount your cattle. It will help them to find more reasons to pay you less, not more, per head. How?

You sign up your premises and put an EID in all your cows. You get your extra 2-5% per head the first few years. Then you get a letter from Cattle America. Turns out they’re the company buying your cattle from your stockyard. Their letter says,

Dear Mr. Cattleman,

After reviewing your records, we have found that your cattle, while producing wonderful birth, weaning, and finishing weights, have too much bone in proportion to muscle. Therefore will be forced to pay 10% below the market price for your cattle the next time you sell them. You can avoid this price discount, though, if you join our Herd Improvement Program for $250 per year and purchase only semen certified by our company. This will not, however, rectify the 3% under market we have to pay because your cattle come from the Southeast, a region that statistically produces cattle with more health deficiencies. If you feel you have received this letter in error, please call our fully-automated toll free number below and one of our customer service representatives in Calcutta will help you, just as soon as they learn English.

This is just common business sense. Sure, it’s heartless, but that’s just the way corporations work.

Does this sound pretty gloomy? Think it’s bordering on downright conspiratorial—the cattle industry is pushing all producers to electronically tag their animals so that they can get them cheaper? Diabolical? You bet. Do we have to go along? No way. Just like drugs—just say no.

To opt out and try something different, why not try direct to-consumer marketing? Forget 2-5% increased profit. How about 200%? And source verification? It’s built in. You can go directly to the consumer and capture for yourself all the profits now snatched by corporations at every level—the buyers, sale barns, feed lots, processors, distributors, and grocery stores. How about we stop investing in corporations just to increase their profits and start investing in ourselves.