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THE GOAL OF THE PACKER?

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HAY MAKER

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The goal of the packer was to become multi-species, multinational protein providers and this they did through attrition, merger and acquisition. But still the beef part of their beef business did not fall into place like pork and poultry. The reason the chicken model did not work nearly as well in the beef business is that not enough ranchers bought the hype and signed on to become serfs on their own land. And ranchers also had something the poultry pluckers did not have: competitive bidding in the form of auction markets, video markets, country traders and retained ownership. If they were going to take complete control of the beef industry the packers knew they needed another business model. For inspiration they looked to American big businesses who were outsourcing their supply chains to the lowest bidder around the world. If ranchers in Nevada or Nebraska wouldn't play ball maybe they would in Canada or Argentina. So the packers started looking beyond U.S. borders to other cattle-producing nations for their supply.

According to Bullard, one of the packer's strategies was be to combine the herds of the United States, Canada and Mexico into one seamless herd. "It's a good business strategy on the packer's part," says Bullard. Although the results would not be very good for U.S. ranchers.

To sell meat from several countries to American consumers it was vital that the consumer not be able to tell any difference in the beef produced in this country and that produced in Mexico, Uruguay, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, or any other cattle-producing country. "They want the consumer to believe that all cattle are the same," says Bullard. "It's not in the interest of a packer to have mandatory country of origin labeling. They want consumers to be loyal to their brand regardless of where they obtained the cattle for use in that product." Country of origin labeling would jeopardize their business model and so the packers tried to kill COOL at every turn.

A packer would also not want the 792,000 beef producers left in the U.S. to have any political power to get in their way. That is why they literally took over the NCBA. What better organization would there be to do there bidding for them than one that for decades had been the one perceived by Congress to represent the cattle industry. Congress put us all in the same boat together. But the NCBA could not do the packer's bidding if they were dependent on dues from rancher's for their existence. So the packers and their lackeys commandeered the checkoff funds, created the NCBA and then hijacked the organization and any credibility it had in Congress.

Say what we will, you have to admire their game plan. "That's a reasonable, justifiable, legitimate business strategy," Bullard said, at least from the packer's viewpoint. At the same time President Bush was pushing free trade agreements and listening closely to any advice offered by the man who bought the Texas Rangers from him and contributed heavily to his campaign. It just so happens that man and his company also owned Swift of Australia. For awhile this outsourcing of beef from foreign countries was working way better than the chicken model had.

Until a Canadian mad cow reared her ugly head, that is.
 

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