As the weather warms, people fire up their grills, grab their tongs and reach for mouth-watering steaks and real beef burgers to create memories with families and friends. In doing so, they are supporting a beef community that positively contributes to the environmental, economic, and nutritional well-being of Kansas. Recognizing the substantial importance of the beef community, Governor Laura Kelly has declared May as Beef Month. In addition, the Governor plans to officially sign the proclamation at Lyons Ranch, near Manhattan, in the coming weeks.
According to Randall Debler, Chair of the Kansas Beef Council Executive Committee, the value of beef to the economy and social fabric of the state is remarkable. “Kansas ranks third in the country with more than 6.5 million cattle on ranches and in feedyards,” says Debler. “That’s more than twice the state’s human population.” Furthermore, Kansas ranked second in fed marketed cattle, with roughly 6.7 million in 2020. In total, cattle and calves represented 51.4% of the 2020 Kansas agricultural cash receipts, bolstering and enhancing the spending power in local residents across the state.
Not only does the marketed value of beef have a significant impact on the economy, but the Kansas beef community also has a significant impact on employment. According to the Kansas Department of Labor, Kansas meat packing and prepared meat products manufacturing make up the largest share of the food processing industry in the state. This industry provides employment for over 31,440 people in Kansas (Kansas Department of Labor). This includes jobs in companies supplying goods and services to manufacturers, distributors and retailers, as well as those depending upon sales to workers in the meat industry.
The beef produced by Kansas beef farmers and ranchers, feeders and processors contributes substantially to human health at every life stage. Research from gold-standard randomized, controlled trials, like a recent checkoff-funded study out of Pennsylvania State University1 demonstrates lean beef can be the protein of choice in many diets and people who eat about 5.5 ounces of lean fresh beef daily as part of a Healthy diet can reduce heart disease risk factors, including total LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.
Kansas has about 45.7 million acres of farm ground. Not all of this land can be used to grow crops, however. Grazing cattle is an ideal technique for efficiently utilizing grasses and plants growing on over 15.5 million acres of Kansas pasture and rangeland. These acres would be wasted if not for ruminants like cattle who can turn these resources into essential protein and nutrients for humans. Additionally, grazing cattle helps maintain grasslands and reduce the fuel load, which can spark destructive wildfires.
“Kansas ranchers and feeders are committed to produce a wholesome and nutritious product responsibly and sustainably,” Debler says. “However, beef production refined over many generations is only part of the story. Producers also keep consumer needs and wants top of mind.”
“While all aspects of beef raising and processing are important, producing beef that is delicious, safe, wholesome and nutritious is ‘job one’ for our industry,” Debler says. “After all, producers of beef are also consumers of the beef they produce. They are proud of their role in supplying this product that so many people enjoy.”