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Trade mission shows big potential for beef in the UK

Jaclyn Wilson

Jaclyn Wilson

Jaclyn Wilson raises Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. Send comments to her at jaclyn@flyingdiamondgenetics.com.

I just arrived at a hotel on the north side of Dublin, Ireland. I will hopefully have a smooth trip back to the United States and what I will affectionately name as the “real world” tomorrow. The Boss Man is chomping on the bit to get me back on the ranch, and I will admit that it’s time to head back. My head is so full of information that I’m about ready to become cross eyed.

What an amazing and interesting trip. The governor’s trade mission left last Sunday to head to the UK and Ireland for a multi-entity trip. Not only were there representatives from the governor’s office and state offices, but also from the insurance and banking sectors and a variety of ag boards and commodity groups.

This was by far one of the largest missions I had been on with right around 40 people. The trip had to be a logistical nightmare to organize, as groups were going multiple places at multiple times.

The group arrived in London Monday and hit the ground running. With the UK exit from the European Union, there are unique opportunities for agricultural trade specifically since not everything is having to be approved by Brussels. U.S. beef is being exported to the UK, but it’s a very tiny amount compared to what could be with negotiated if trade agreements that would get rid of some of the trade quotas. The potential there is unbelievable, and the demand for U.S. product remains strong.

But there are concerns voiced time after time. Growth promoting usage is at the forefront of those concerns, along with climate change, sustainability and animal welfare.

There is potential opportunity to continue to change the impression of using growth promoters. Most consumers are just repeating what they have listened to from the local media instead of what scientific data reports. I sat down at a fascinating dinner with Tyson and a number of chefs and beef importers. They all talked about animal welfare and how we finish cattle out in feedlots.

What was interesting to me from that standpoint is the finish system in both the UK and Ireland. Cattle are fed in small confinement pens, given enough bunk space and room to lay down. Compared to our big feedlots (CAFOs) there are fewer cattle on feed at a given time. But CAFOs are shunned because of the numbers and not the fact that the cattle have more maneuverability and space.

The EU is still clamoring about growth promoters, but there are talks that show a small shift toward science that says there are no concerns with utilizing growth promoters. Being able to sit down at the table with individuals from Chef Jamie Oliver’s staff (you may have seen Oliver’s anti-American sentiment on YouTube) and having those efficiency and welfare conversations first hand makes it ever so important to changing preconceived mindsets.

We were also able to get out into the English countryside and visit both a sheep and beef farm and continue those conversations. The ever-present topic of importance in the countryside was climate change. Top of mind were the new standards and regulations released by the government that were looking to be unachievable.

With every individual that I met in either country, the number one focus was climate change and sustainability. It was definitely quite an adjustment from what our producers are talking about back in the U.S.

Thursday we left London to fly to Dublin where we were greeted with a couple of receptions before we headed into another day of meeting with the Kerry group and Enterprise Ireland, talking about food and beverage additives and biotech startups.

The last stop of the day was the Husker prep rally where thousands of Husker fans had traveled to watch the team play American football. Unfortunately, on Saturday the team lost. The best thing to happen when you have thousands upon thousands of Husker football fans sitting in a stadium feel down and depressed was to have the cashless machines break down. All of a sudden that depression lifted with all the free food and beverages you could consume.

The majority of the trade mission left the following morning. I instead caught a bus out to Limerick on the west side of Dublin to meet up with the Ireland Cattle and Sheep Association. It was an epic adventure exploring farms and a processing facility in the Irish countryside. I’ll get into that story next week. My brain is still swirling from all of the knowledge pushed into it the last three days.

Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at jaclyn@flyingdiamondgenetics.com. This column represents the views of one person and are not necessarily the opinion of the Midwest Messenger.   

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Jaclyn Wilson raises Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. Send comments to her at jaclyn@flyingdiamondgenetics.com.

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