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USDA Market News - As Diverse as the Agricultural Landscape

As the agricultural landscape evolves to meet consumer demand, USDA Market News works to ensure that emerging sectors have the unbiased, reliable data they need to succeed in the marketplace.

USDA Market News – administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – provides data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy.  Everyone in the ag supply chain is accustomed to visiting Market News for items like current wholesale and retail prices for beef cuts, but here at AMS we offer so much more.

Working with Livestock Industry to Provide Critical Market Intelligence

The Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting (LMR) Program was created to expand pricing information available to the livestock industry.  The data is collected and distributed by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) through its USDA Market News division to provide market information for cattle, swine, lamb, and livestock products.

LMR encourages competition in the marketplace by vastly improving price and supply data, bringing transparency, breadth and depth to market reporting.  Through LMR, livestock producers and processors, retail food outlets, restaurants, exporters, and many other stakeholders receive critical market intelligence on a daily basis.  Literally thousands of business transactions every day rest on the outcome of LMR data.

USDA Market News Reporters Know Beef

The United States is the largest beef producer and one of the largest beef exporters in the world.  In order to remain competitive, our Nation’s beef producers and everyone else in the supply chain need reliable data to evaluate market conditions, identify trends, make purchasing decisions, and monitor price patterns.

USDA Market News – part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – provides the entire beef industry with equal access to the data they need with just the click of a button.  Livestock, Poultry, and Grain Market News Division reporters gather and disseminate beef market information, ranging from feeder cattle to retail beef prices.  From farm-to-fork, we have the cattle and beef markets covered.

Does Your Smoked Brisket Make the Grade?

I live for barbeque season. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of getting that meat done just right, and nothing like the gratification that comes with sharing it with friends and family gathered on a sunny summer’s day.

When it comes to successful barbeque, I have a bit more skin in the game than most.  You see, for me a quality eating experience at a family or community function isn’t just a personal goal – it’s a professional calling.  My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is committed to helping meat and poultry producers market their high quality products to consumers across the nation (and the world), and quality is the name of our game.

A Huge Undertaking with Tremendous Benefit - USDA's Integral Role in the National Beef Quality Audit

About once every five years since 1991, the National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) brings together producers, consumers, academia, and government in a collaborative research and data collection exercise that spans the entire U.S. beef industry.  Funded by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (the beef checkoff program), the NBQA assesses the current status of the industry regarding production processes and practices that ultimately affect consumer demand for beef.

The audit uses a multi-phase approach to identify the top challenges the fed-beef (cattle raised for meat production) industry faces.  The NBQA first gathers data to measure current quality and consistency of U.S fed-beef, and then quantifies the level to which cattle producers are applying common sense husbandry techniques, specifically the Beef Quality Assurance principles, to safeguard that quality.  The results are translated into practical guidance for continued improvement in the production of fed-beef and, in turn, consumers’ acceptance of the end products found in stores.

Beef Retailers Now Labeling Mechanically Tenderized Beef

This summer and grilling season – which unofficially kicks off in less than two weeks with Memorial Day weekend – American shoppers will see an important new label on some steak packages. Beginning May 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service started requiring meat processors to disclose a common practice known as mechanical tenderization and provide safe cooking instructions so their customers know to handle these products carefully.

Product tenderness is a key selling point for beef products. To increase tenderness, some cuts of beef are tenderized mechanically by piercing them with needles or small blades in order to break up tissue. This process takes place before the beef is packaged but can also occur at the grocery store’s butcher counter, at a restaurant, or in the home. The blades or needles can introduce pathogens from the surface of the beef to the interior, making proper cooking very important. However, mechanically tenderized products look no different than product that has not been treated this way, so without disclosure on the label, consumers may not know about this higher food safety risk.

Celebrating the New Face of Agriculture

At the Agricultural Marketing Service and across USDA, we often talk about the fact that the face of American agriculture is changing. The ranks of our farmers, especially young and beginning farmers, include a growing number of women, people of color, veterans or folks in their second careers. So-called “traditional” agriculture defies the term as it pursues new strategies, new products, and new markets. Across the country, agriculture is diversifying and evolving to meet changing consumer demands.

I saw the new face of agriculture last week during travels to Illinois and Indiana. My first stop was a roundtable on Women in Agriculture held at FarmedHere in Bedford Park, Illinois, about 15 miles from Chicago. Twenty or so women gathered to talk about their farming goals and to hear about how USDA could support them. This topic is close to my heart – I’m a New Hampshire native, a state with the second highest percentage of women farmers in the country. The women around the table with me represented the new face of ag, but so too did the setting – an indoor, vertical farm that produces basil and microgreens in a facility designed to reduce energy costs and shrink the carbon footprint of growing food.  FarmedHere is managed by Megan Klein, an attorney by training who found her calling in urban agriculture and became part of this “new face.”

Creating Uniformity in a Diverse Industry

During its 100 years of serving the livestock industry, USDA Market News – part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – has prided itself in creating transparency and clarity in the marketplace by allowing all industry stakeholders to have the same information about the market at the same time.  The entire agricultural supply chain relies on USDA Market News for timely, unbiased data.  Without this free service, information would not be available to everyone equally, making USDA Market News a vital lifeline for America’s agricultural economy.

Over the years, countless changes have occurred in the livestock industry – like the way that livestock standards are applied and the way market reporting is conducted.  To keep up with these changes, livestock correlations are held to assure the industry that all USDA market reporters are applying the USDA’s livestock grades and standards consistently and accurately.

Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program - Developing Future Ag Leaders

For many years, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), through its Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program, has been actively involved in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program. The program serves as a tool to recruit and train future leaders in the meat and livestock industry.  Judging is a competitive event for youth through college students and it has a rich history in the U.S. meat industry – and here at AMS.

The program originally started in 1926 at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago, and was sponsored by the National Live Stock and Meat Board.  Contests have been held every year since 1926, with the exception of the war years.

Keeping U.S. Meat Competitive on the World Stage

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has the vital mission of administering programs that help market American agricultural products competitively in the global marketplace.  One of the ways AMS meets this mission is through the development of our own globally recognized meat standards, developed by the program I oversee, the AMS Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program.  However, separately, AMS works to achieve our mission through our participation and leadership in international standards setting organizations such as the UNECE.

For many years, I have represented the U.S. as the Vice-Chairperson of the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Specialized Section on Standardization of Meat.  UNECE is one of the many sections of the United Nations (UN), and facilitates international trade by developing agricultural quality standards.