A Note from NCBA CEO, Colin Woodall

As a contractor to the national Beef Checkoff, NCBA is focused on beef promotion and research to help drive demand for beef.  However, we cannot do it alone, and that is why we value our partnerships with you.  Without your efforts to get beef onto the consumers’ plates, we will not be able to maintain the strong demand we currently see for our great product.  Recently, Purdue University released their “Consumer Food Insights” report that shows the majority of American’s do not plan to cut back on meat consumption.  This is due to the high-quality beef being produced and your work to make sure the consumer can readily access it.  The consumer’s willingness to stay with us as prices have increased is one of the reasons we are optimistic about the future. 

As we wrapped up the 2023 Cattle Industry Convention in New Orleans, I was amazed at the amount of optimism expressed by our members, even with the plague of drought remaining over many portions of the United States. USDA’s cattle inventory report shows the smallest domestic cattle herd in sixty years. Drought-induced liquidation of cattle harkens back to our experience in the last big drought of 2011. Fortunately, meteorologists are getting bolder in their forecasts that we will see a shift from a La Niña weather pattern to an El Niño one around the middle of the year. While it may not come early enough to help many producers in the central and southern plains, simply knowing that rain is on the horizon helps with our optimism. In the western mountain ranges, we are seeing snowpacks that are at, or above, their normal percentages. This has alleviated much of the western drought and will provide for plenty of moisture this spring.

Silver linings often result from many of the challenges we face in the cattle industry. Herd liquidation means that the supply of cattle is dramatically different from a few years ago. Demand for beef, however, remains high. The consumer is with us and wants to eat beef as illustrated by our experience in restaurants and retail grocery stores this past year. As I mentioned above, beef prices went up, but the consumer kept buying. They kept buying because the high quality of our beef delivered an eating experience they wanted to enjoy time and again. Much of that demand is thanks to the work of the Beef Checkoff. Checkoff-funded programs such as Beef Quality Assurance, or BQA, have helped us dramatically improve the quality of our beef. When it comes to pure eating pleasure, we know we are the protein of choice, and with your help, our Checkoff-funded work keeps moving beef.

Solid consumer demand is key because it is resulting in higher prices being paid for cattle. Economists and market analysts are telling us that the outlook is good for cattle prices in 2023. We need it, but the prices we are paying for fuel and production supplies are taking the shine off these increased prices. Once again, here is a place for optimism as there are signals that inflation could start to wane this year. That will help us get more out of improved cattle prices while giving the consumer even more money in their pocket for beef.

Each new year brings a time for optimism and fresh starts. The outlook for 2023 only helps to bolster our optimism. Cattle producers watch market signals very closely. Strong beef demand, rain to grow grass, and good cattle prices will send a clear signal to start rebuilding our herd potentially as soon as later this year.