Myth: Big Beef has taken over cattle production and factory farming has replaced family farming and ranching, impacting the welfare of animals and the quality of beef.
Facts: Factory farming is a misnomer. The beef community is a broad community of dedicated people including farmers and ranchers, small business owners, community leaders, animal caretakers, nutritionists, environmentalists and many more who help bring beef to plates around the world. This passionate and long-standing community shares the mission to provide the safest, highest-quality beef in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner.
Meet the beef community
While myths like factory farming seed the idea that the beef community is run only by large corporations, the truth is that the beef community is comprised of the nearly 1 million U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers who blend time-honored traditions with modern innovation to provide high-quality beef.
While some incorrectly believe factory farming has replaced family farms and ranches, 97 percent of beef farms or ranches are family-owned. Fifty-four percent of these farms and ranches have been in the same family for three generations or more. In addition, 64 percent hope to continue the tradition by passing down their farm or ranch to their children.
If factory farming were the reality, small family farms and ranches wouldn’t be in business. Hear first-hand from some of the proud members of the beef community about what they do and how they raise beef.
- Anne Burkholder – Palm Beach, Florida native who now raises a family and works on the family’s Nebraska feedyard.
- Ryan Goodman – Born and raised on an Arkansas cattle ranch, worked in the feedyards of Texas and now getting his master’s degree at the University of Tennessee.
- Kim Brackett – Idaho cattle rancher and busy mom of four.
- Debbie Lyons Blythe – Cattle rancher in central Kansas, in the heart of the Flint Hills, who raises cows and five kids.
- Janice Wolfinger – Mom of two who helps to run the family’s Ohio cattle farm and Nebraska feedyard, with husband Jake.
The myth of factory farming doesn’t stand alone. Farmers who grow row crops face similar misconceptions regarding who truly has control over their farms. One Indiana farmer explains the choices he has on his family farm here.
Beef community beliefs
Contrary to the notion that factory farming is a reality and cares for little but profits, the real beef community stands behind seven core principles:
- Exercise good stewardship of natural resources by using science-based practices and principles
- Protect animals
- Provide consumers with wholesome, nutritious and high-quality beef options
- Commit to continuous improvements in all aspects of food safety
- Invest in communities by being responsible citizens and active participants
- Embrace innovation and strive to discover and apply new approaches that improve product quality and safety, animal health and environmental stewardship
- Operate businesses in ways that meet consumer expectations for cattle care, environmental friendliness, beef safety and nutrition
Learn more about farmers and ranchers’ statement of principles.
Making a difference in rural economies
Media reports contend factory farming takes away rather than gives to rural economies, but in reality farmers and ranchers have historically helped shape rural America.
- The beef community helps define the future of rural communities in which they live by maintaining strong family ties, giving back through time and money, providing leadership and spurring economic growth.
- For example, almost half of cattlemen volunteer with youth organizations and more than one-third volunteer with other community organizations. More than 80 percent of cattlemen contribute to their church.
- On average, beef operations provide jobs for more than two family members as well as two non-family members.
- Cattlemen also support other farmers in many cases by buying crops for cattle feed from other farms within 100 miles.