Global Beef Industry Overview
Beef is meat primarily from cows, heifers or steers. It is the third most widely consumed meat in the world with a global annual production of more than 53 million metric tons carcass-weight equivalent (cwe). This kind of meat is high in protein – higher than the two more widely-consumed meats, pork and chicken. Consumption of red meat is particularly high in the advanced economies and the countries of Latin America and emerging Asia.
Beef is graded based on quality as prime, choice, select and commercial grades for quality and consistency. Marbling is the key criterion for grading and high marbling produces higher quality of beef.
The value chain is primarily from the farmer to a wholesale market and then to retailers who butcher carcases into various cuts, or directly in bulk to supermarket chains and meat processors.
The USA, Australia and Brazil are the three largest exporting countries for beef.
Conventional, organic and certified beef are distinct market segments:
Conventional beef is the most common beef at retail. Most of this specific sort of meat is grain-finished, with corn as the main ingredient, and is raised mainly in pasture conditions. It is also minimally processed and has no additives. More than 85% of beef in the USA is grain-finished beef.
Organic beef is sourced from cattle raised using organic practices that prohibit growth-enhancing hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics. Organic cattle feed is free of animal products and includes only organic feedstuffs. Beef of this type in the USA is generally retailed at a premium of $2 per pound compared to its conventional counterpart.
Certified beef is red meat of the highest quality produced through careful selection and inspection. For instance, in the USA independent United States Department of Agriculture graders inspect cattle of the Angus breed to select the top-quality which is then evaluated using the brand's set of specifications for marbling, size and uniformity before it is certified. In the USA, less than 1.5% of beef meets the Certified Angus Beef standards.
Regional Market Shares
The key geographies for beef by per capita consumption are Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
Beef is the most preferred meat in Argentina, with an average per capita annual consumption of more than 42 kilograms retail weight (kg rwt). Production in this country is expected to be more than 2.6 million metric tons cwe annually in the near future. Argentina also exports beef to about 60 countries including China, which imports more of this specific meat from Argentina than any other country except Australia.
Uruguay also has a large market for beef with an average per capita annual consumption of about 36 kg rwt. Beef exports are an important part of the Uruguay economy and are expected to reach about 395,000 metric tons cwe per year in the foreseeable future. China and the USA are the largest importers of Uruguay’s beef.
Brazil, another very large consumer of beef, has an average per capita yearly consumption of more than 26 kg rwt. The total cattle herd in this country is estimated to be more than 200 million heads. Brazilian beef production is expected to reach 9.6 million metric tons cwe and exports are likely to grow to 1.7 million metric tons cwe in the near future.
Emerging trends and developments in the beef industry are:
New technological advances in Australia are enabling farmers to breed Australia's first generation of hornless cattle. The country’s Beef Cooperative Research Centre in partnership with the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization, the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit and the University of Queensland Animal Genetics Laboratory has developed a DNA marker test that facilitates breeding of naturally hornless cattle. With the Australian Poll Gene Marker test, producers can now identify breeding animals which will consistently produce polled progeny as well as carriers of horned genes. The genetic solution helps in identifying whether cattle are true polled. This helps in breeding naturally hornless cattle, thereby reducing the need for costly dehorning.
Demand from China is likely to create a huge import market for beef. A growing shortage in domestic beef production coupled with increased demand for high-quality products as urban incomes rise is expected to support import demand. In the foreseeable future beef will be one of the fastest-growing import sectors in China according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Currently Australia is one of the largest suppliers of beef to China with a 50% market share. In a recent year Australia exported 128,000 tonnes of beef to China worth more than $650 million. Australia, known for its high quality red meat, is well positioned to capitalize on this emerging demand.
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