Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Farm to Fork

A lot of us are starting to care about the source of our food – we want to know what’s on our plate and how it got there.

I was personally surprised to learn that the average beef animal passes through some 4-5 hands before it even gets to the slaughterhouse door. Why might this matter? Here’s my take. Would love to hear yours.

First, here are some possible benefits of this system:

Specialization. It allows farms to get really good at doing one thing, e.g. breeding, raising calves, getting calves ready for the backgrounder or feedlot.

Cash Flow. It can take up to 2 years to raise beef cattle to market size (and more for some styles). That’s a long time to go without being paid.

Economies of scale. In principle, it allows farms with only a small number of cattle to find a market. For instance, auction houses can bundle cattle from different farms into groups that are then easier to sell. It takes 40,000 lbs of livestock (about 40 market-weight cattle or up to 80 calves) to efficiently fill a truckload on the way to a feedlot.

What about the negatives? Let’s explore those in the next post.

We can also ponder what the dollar signs mean in the image below.

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