Conservation Training

Rebuilding the US Cattle Herd: An Imperative Climate Mitigation Strategy and a Just Transition for Packinghouse Workers

December 6, 2022

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Location: Online

The collapse of the US cattle herd in the wake of the drought of 2011-12 threatens not only the climate but also labor standards for meatpacking and poultry workers. The 1996 Farm Bill stripped the last remnants of the old New Deal supply management program, unleashing overproduction of feedgrains. A 2007 Tufts GDAE report, found that this overproduction drove feed prices significantly below the cost of production. Since feed is the biggest cost for producing meat, Tufts found that this deregulation of grain markets delivered a $35 billion-dollar indirect feed subsidy to industrial meat and dairy production over the life of the ’96 Farm Bill. This below-cost feed subsidy is the major driver of CAFO expansion. Reinstating supply management could remove that indirect feed subsidy by putting a price floor for grains at the real cost of production, and thereby level of the playing field between grain fed and pasture fed beef. Such an approach could potentially reduce the carbon footprint of beef by reducing the amount of fossil-fuel grains consumed by cattle, moving more cattle out onto more acres of sustainable pasture rotations which would begin to rebuild soils and capture more carbon. It could also make the countryside more resilient in the face of climate volatility. Therefore, it imperative to support stronger antitrust enforcement, COOL and other policies that will provide economic incentives for ranchers to hold back female cows for breeding and herd rebuilding as a crucial strategy not only to mitigate global warming, but also to curtail the ongoing erosion of labor standards for packinghouse workers.

Join us for the last Digital Dialogue of the fall where we will hear from Dennis Olson, Senior Research Associate, Food and Agriculture Policy an the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union on rebuilding the US cattle herd!