You Don't Win Friends With Salad

“All normal people love meat. If I went to a barbeque and there was no meat, I would say 'Yo Goober! Where's the meat?' I'm trying to impress people here, Lisa. You don't win friends with salad.” So says Homer Simpson in his snappy riposte to his daughter’s misguided advice to enhance her father’s barbecue with leafy greens, aptly followed by a “you-don’t-make-friends-with-salad-conga."

WHERE IS THE MEAT INDEED?

In the last three months, Canadian Cattle has become something of a hot item, experiencing a price jump, and an all-too-sudden scarcity. But how can a commodity so commonly abundant and fixed in the food market change its spots overnight?

 In 2009 Canadian Beef farms were hit with a heavy blow. The 2009 financial collapse hit North America and had repercussions across the globe. Major savings plans were lost, businesses foreclosed, and American banks took to government bail-outs. So, what happened on the farms and the industry of feeding the populace? A lot of farmers, being sensible businessmen with as much financial acumen as agrarian, promptly got out of the industry. By 2011 almost 1/3rd of farmers and breeders had dissipated from the industry, creating a dearth in the local Canadian cattle supply. Jump ahead 30-42 months later in 2013 an late 2014 this dearth did not have a major effect on the price of beef in the Canadian Market because there was still enough supply from the remaining 2/3rd of those raising calves to finished beef (which takes exactly 30 – 42 months). But in late 2014 a major shift in the market came when the value of the American Dollar rose. Fortune Magazine quoting Geoffrey Smith said: “The U.S. Dollar Index, which measures the buck against six major western currencies but not against emerging market currencies such as China’s Yuan, has risen 7.1% in the third quarter, its biggest quarterly rise since the 2008 market panic…” Some people might describe the undaunted rise of the U.S. Dollar as being “on a mad hot streak” of which there is no foreseeable outcome as to whether this rise will remain steady or drop like milk in a pail. 

With a deficit of cows and a competitive currency introduced to the global market, Canadian beef farmers were more than happy to sell their product (commodity and Organic) to the American buyers for profit, while Canadian buy prices rose in the blink of an eye. Back in 2009 at the height of the market crash/deficit of the following years, most small-time butcher shops and beef suppliers were able to absorb and offset any prices changes into the business so that the customers would remain unaffected. In 2015, most small-time shops are woefully at no other option but to raise their prices to match the crisis. 

 The Healthy Butcher, a three-store, whole-animal-style butcher shop, claims that ALL business (supermarkets included) will be changing their prices, as they have done with the rising price of cattle from their primary supplier, Fieldgate Organices. Dave Meli, executive butcher of the company state: “Some very large buyers can buffer this a bit more then we can because they have 6 months or 1 year contracts with suppliers like Cargill.  So places like Loblaw’s and Costco may not have changed their prices as much as quickly but I can assure you that they will.  People cannot afford to lose money on beef.”  Add this to the recent statement made by Peter Sanagan of Sanagan’s Meat Locker in his blog publication of The Cost of Steak: “Fun thing to do – ask Galen Weston (CEO/President of Lowblaws) the name of the farmer who raises the beef they sell in any of their stores. Don’t hold your breath while waiting for a response from corporate”. 

It is clear to see a growing trend of transparency that small-business food markets are putting out to the world in a noble effort to support their customers throw murky financial waters. And so what is a conscientious consumer to do? In any cost-related crisis, the most practical solution is to vote with our dollars to initiate real revenue back into the farm beef-raising industry. Like a “new car” commercial during the Reagan-era economics, or a coast-guard poster during WWI, ask yourself: “Are You Doing Your Part?” Add that with the cost-transparency of smaller markets and food suppliers, we can hope for a significant price change in the future.  

FoodMax TepperComment