Are We Raising Cattle Or Beef?

Fodder for Thought

Who is your real customer, the consumer or the next guy in the marketing chain?

Published on: September 5, 2013

Cattle versus beef … what's the difference?

You would think the answer should be obvious.

Cattle are not walking hamburgers. Beef patties do not moo.

Ranchers raise cattle. Packers and meat processors turn the animal into beef. So then why is it that some ranchers call themselves "cattle producers" and others "beef producers?"

My friend Doug Ferguson, who I have written about from time to time on this blog, says the industry suffers from a "meat complex."

What he means by this is that producers, over time, have been led to believe their only customer of concern in the cattle business should be the beef consumer. He's right to a point. Industry trade organizations focus a majority of their efforts on beef demand; less focus is given to relations internally, such as that between the cow-calf operator and stocker-backgrounder.

When you ask Ferguson what he calls himself, he will tell you he raises cattle, not beef, and that his customer is the buyer of his cattle, not the beef consumer.

So this brings me the question – who is your customer?

Yes, the beef consumer is your customer but for most in the cattle business, it is only indirectly. Aside from those directly market the beef from their cattle, the majority of producers raise cattle and then sell these animals into the next segment of the production chain. For example, cow-calf producers raise calves and sell these to a stocker-backgrounder.

With that being the case, shouldn't we do just as much to promote internal industry relations between each production chain segment as we do for the end product (beef) consumer?

In this instance the following saying comes to mind: "The customer is always right."

In my mind, it would seem that the order buyer at the sale barn or the stocker operator who buys your calves through private treaty every year is just as important and possibly more important than the mom buying a pound of hamburger at the grocery store.

When you get down to it, the first is the one profiting you in the here and now. Without that you wouldn't be able to stay in the cattle business.