Will’s Wisdom: Australian Fires and Imported Grassfed Beef

Posted by Will Harris
Jan 20, 2020 2:47:55 PM

Grassfed cattle beef White Oak Pastures pasture raised beef

Fact: American grassfed beef ranches have lost most of their profitability in the last few years.

I have found it necessary to rethink encouraging new producers to embrace our regenerative cattle production model. I now feel compelled to warn them to be very careful.  This is because we veteran American grassfed beef producers have recognized that "Greenwashed" foreign product is destroying our margin structure.   

Because I have been publicly vocal on the topic of unlabeled imported grassfed beef, I am now being asked if the Australian fires have lessened the amount of foreign product that we are competing with.

The answer is… No. We have seen no change in the amount of foreign grassfed beef that is in the marketplace as a result of the Australian fires, and we won't.

This is because:

  • The beef pipeline from Australia to America is literally 10,000 miles long. This gives the multinational meat companies a lot of time to react to any grassfed beef shortfall from Australia. They will just shop for it in another country.
  • If the multinational meat companies can't take advantage of Australian cattlemen, they will victimize the cattlemen from Uruguay, or New Zealand, or somewhere else. This is simply standard operating procedure: shop in the most depressed markets on the planet, and misrepresent it in the most lucrative market on the planet.

Grassfed beef and pasture raised sheep White Oak Pastures

Here is what is true:

  1. My heart goes out for the Australian farmers and ranchers who are in the fire devastation areas. Some of them are my friends [Jeff Campbell]. I cannot imagine losing all that you have struggled for, all that previous generations sacrificed to provide for you, and all that you intended to leave for subsequent generations. I believe that a loss of this magnitude can be worse than death.
  2. Greenwashed Australian grassfed beef, legally labeled "Product of the USA", is rapidly destroying the American grassfed industry. To a great extent, it has already done so.
  3. The American grassfed livestock industry is [was] our best hope for the enrichment of rural American communities, the environmental regeneration of American lands and waters, the return of humane animal welfare to American farms, and a significant contribution from our country to the mitigation of climate change.
  4. I hold large multinational meat companies responsible for the greedy utilization of legal, but fraudulent, USDA labeling to trick American consumers of the providence of the grassfed beef that they are buying. This results in consumers giving their financial support to production systems that are not the system they intended to support.

I do not hold Australian farmers and ranchers responsible for this deception of the American consumer. Further, I suspect that multinational meat companies brutalize Australian farmers the same way that they brutalize American farmers.

Please pray for the survival of the hard-working Australian ranchers, as they deal with the devastation from the fires. Also please pray for the survival of the hard-working American ranchers as they deal with the devastation from predatory labeling from multinational meat companies.

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