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Where’s the beef? Idaho producing less red meat, trade group says

Sat., Dec. 3, 2011, 6:29 p.m.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The amount of red meat produced in Idaho has declined during the last decade, the Idaho Cattle Association says.

And the United State Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said red meat production at Idaho packing plants in October was down 80 percent from the same time last year at 3.5 million pounds.

“There have been a lot of factors leading to the loss of production in Idaho,” Bill Brockman, former president of Magic Valley Cattlemen’s Association, told the Idaho Business Review “For one, we’re losing our grazing lands, our irrigated land is being used to raise more profitable crops instead of cattle feed and that has led to substantially higher feed costs.”

He also said the closure of meat packing plants has been a problem for Idaho producers. A plant in Boise closed in 2006, and then another closed, XL Four Star Beef in Nampa, in June.

“Now, instead of going to Boise, producers have to drive out of state,” he said. “And that cuts into your profit. It makes it difficult to stay in business.”

Idaho Cattle Association Board Member John Ricketts of Jerome agreed.

“Much of the cattle raised in Idaho was already shipped to Utah and Washington for slaughter but XL’s closure is forcing many to transport some cattle even longer distances and that is adding to already high fuel prices,” he said. “It’s just another challenge facing producers.”

The closest plants for Idaho producers now, Brockman said, are plants in Pasco, Wash., Tolleson, Ariz., or Fresno, Calif.

Ricketts said producers are trying to forge trade agreements with Pacific Rim countries, such as South Korea.

“Cattlemen are much more aware and engaged in what’s going on around them,” he said. “We’re making alliances and marketing smarter and we’re seeing that pay off.”


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