Agricultural Policy Review


T HE US beef industry operates in a highly competitive world market. As a global leader in the production of beef cattle, its competitive advantage in beef production stems from a well-developed infrastructure as well as a reputation for quality. Nevertheless, US beef has a disadvantage in the relative cost of production. For instance, the majority of US beef is grain-fed, while a pound of grass-fed beef can be produced at a lower cost. Lack of animal traceability and mandatory national identiβication systems can also put US beef in a vulnerable position competing with other major export countries. There is no doubt that the US beef industry today faces a highly competitive global market place. However, are US beef exports facing signiβicantly greater economic competition today than they did in the past, or have those export markets always been highly competitive? The beef industry has become more concentrated over the past 30 years, suggesting that examinations of export competitiveness should consider the possibility of market power. We also question whether global competition is affected by the inherent dynamics of cattle production and marketing in beef exporting nations. Livestock production is impacted by a biological cycle that affects the production of βinal meat products, and as cattle are capital and consumption goods, current breeding and consumption decisions impact future stocks.