Katie Olthoff

Katie Olthoff speaks at Iowa Cattlemen’s BeefMeet June 11 in Cherokee with Minnesota producer Grant Breitkreutz waiting in the wings.

With the growing popularity of meat alternatives, ranchers from across the country have expressed concerns with how lab-grown or plant-based “meat” would be labeled for consumers. As regulatory battles continue on the state and national levels, some believe the fight is already over.

Giving the keynote address at Iowa Cattlemen’s Association BeefMeet June 11 in Cherokee, Iowa, Chris Clayton, the ag policy editor for the Progressive Farmer, said that once the packers put their money into fake meat, the fight is over before it begins.

“The big packers already invested in it. With billions of dollars invested in (fake meat), why would they label their products as anything but meat?” Clayton said.

Clayton’s blunt message didn’t deter the hope of Iowa Cattlemen leaders to influence labeling laws in Iowa and across the country. Cattlemen’s spokeswoman Katie Olthoff said while the state group works with the National Cattlemen’s Association, fake meat will stay on the docket regardless.

Olthoff and several of her coworkers at in cattlemen’s association were on hand during the BeefMeet to provide updates on the association’s objectives for 2019. The event, which was held at the Grainery in Cherokee touched on a variety of issues from cover crops to Iowa’s preparations in case of a disease outbreak.

Influenced by recent efforts to quell an avian flu outbreak in the poultry industry, Olthoff said the cattlemen have put money into state programs to prevent any more major disease outbreaks.

“We quite literally cannot imagine how bad that would be if something like that happened to the cattle industry,” she said.

An extra half million dollars went into emergency preparedness this past year, and the cattlemen are working with the Department of Agriculture to get more resources to the Animal Disease Emergency Lab.

In addition to those funds, she said the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab is nearly halfway to the $125 million it needs to upgrade the 42-years-old building.

“That’ll be enough for them to start rebuilding Phase 1, but they need money for Phase 2,” she said.

On the national level, the Iowa Cattlemen and other organizations are working again to push back against livestock hauling regulations, as well as electronic logging devices for truckers. The current exemption once again will end in September if a third pushback is not issued. The groups are asking that livestock haulers be allowed to continue driving passed the mandated break period as long as they are in range of their destination.

“If you get within 150 air miles of delivery, you can finish. We don’t want people to sit with cattle on the trailer because of regulations,” she said. “Livestock has to go where it needs to go.”

Olthoff finished by discussing trade, saying that the Iowa Cattlemen and more than 900 other agricultural organizations are pushing for Congress to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to open more trade with the neighboring countries. As it stands today, ranchers receive about $70 per head as a result of exports to Mexico alone, she said.

Iowa Beef Industry Council director Chris Freland gave an update on how beef checkoff money is being spent.

Freland said their main goal is to expand Iowa beef into states with poor beef production to provide them needed protein, which fits in with their motto of “People, Pleasure and Protein.”

The Iowa council worked closely with Pennsylvania due to their low cattle population. Research has been done to figure out the best ways to provide beef to the state and how to market in more urban environments.

“Unless we invest in this research, we can’t prove that beef is important for your diet and helps build strength,” she said.

Although exporting beef out of Iowa is the main goal, the beef council has been looking at ways to educate the country. Through trips to Chicago food events, Freland said they saw a noticeable increase in beef recommendations from the dietitians they spoke with.

While the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association works on promoting the USMCA, Freland said the beef council has worked on getting Iowan beef to smaller markets as well as the large ones. The key is exporting cuts of meat that aren’t used in the U.S.

“When I was in Japan recently, I asked what Iowa could do differently or better,” she said. “They just asked for two tongues for every carcass.”

Japan and other Southeast Asian countries have a desire for cuts most Americans would deem useless, which provides an open market for Iowa producers.

The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association has just over 9,000 members across all 99 counties in the state. CEO Matt Deppe presented Sioux County with the 2018 award for most contributions, totaling $15,250.

BeefMeets is an annual series put on by the Iowa Cattlemen.

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Reach Reporter Jager Robinson at 605-335-7300, email jager.robinson@lee.net or follow on Twitter @Jager_Robinson.