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DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU), a general farm organization representing family agricultural producers from Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, is appalled by McDonald’s recent announcement that it will begin serving imported beef in its 13,000 U.S. outlets.
“McDonald’s first advertised its hamburgers as quality U.S. beef,” said RMFU president John Stencel. “Now, McDonald’s is reducing its standards by importing poorer quality hamburger for its sandwiches.”
The majority of discount hamburger meat, including that of most fast-food chains, is made using low-fat meat from cull cows and grinding it with fat that has been trimmed off retail beef cuts. The low-cost fat trimmings are considered a byproduct, much like bone, hides and offal. Cull cows are those that are too old, or otherwise unproductive, to be used for breeding or milk production.
“Good quality hamburger is ground chuck or other cuts from young animals that are naturally marbled. High quality hamburger can be low or higher fat, depending on the characteristics of the carcass,” Stencel said. “Adding exterior fat from other animals to ground meat gives it a similar consistency but seriously compromises the taste.”
The decision to serve imported beef, according to McDonald’s, is due to a shortage of lean U.S. beef. However, it should be noted that Australian and New Zealand beef sells for 5-20 cents per pound less than U.S. beef. After years of low live cattle prices during which producers were told that depressed market prices were due to oversupply, U.S. cattle producers have reduced the U.S. cattle herd in order to increase demand.
“Now that demand is greater than supply, prices should go up to stimulate production,” Stencel said. “However, producers are having the economic rug pulled out from under them by imports.”
In fact, beef imports have risen by one-third over the past five years. The United States imports nearly 600,000 metric tons of beef annually, just from Australia and New Zealand. The United States is a net importer of beef, a fact U.S. cattle producers say is not necessary.
“Surveys show that upwards of 80 percent of consumers want products labeled, and many of them would pay more for U.S. products,” Stencel said. “Consumer demand, food safety, and national security all are very good reasons to ‘buy American’.”
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