In the moood for U.S. Prime beef, go to Europe!

gauchos-webDo they make the grade coming from Nicaragua or Honduras? U.S. beef has eight grades: Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner.

The total U.S. beef consumption last year was 24.1 billion pounds. The total beef production here was 24.3 billion pounds. That sounds about even to me. The amount we produce is the virtually the same as what we consume. End of story?

No! It’s just the sign of yet another example of how “free” trade and meaningless labels can hurt the American consumer.

Before 1950, you could buy Prime, Choice or Good grades of beef at your local grocer or butcher shop.. That year the government decided to combine Choice and Prime into one grade: Prime.  Then Good grade, the lowest usually available then, was elevated to Choice.

Since you can fool most of the people, shoppers eventually were satisfied with their Choice grade meat, not realizing it was low-grade, compared to the Choice from 1927 through 1949. Because of exports, there was suddenly a shortage of Prime beef at supermarkets, and shoppers were assured that Choice was better than Prime (because it was too tender?). The government did admit that the Prime beef was going to restaurants here and around the world and to well-heeled Europeans, who like an excellent, not tough steak.

After many so-called “free” trade deals, the United States last year exported 2.573 billion pounds of  beef, and that is assuredly most of the best quality beef that you can’t find in American stores. What has happened is the sales job on “Choice is better than Prime” worked so well that Americans won’t pay more for Prime. The rest of the world will pay more for better beef, and so we export it to these taste and value conscious consumers.

That leaves a shortage of beef for U.S. consumers, so the solution has been to import Choice – or whatever they call it overseas – and satisfy this self induced shortage.

So, which countries are shipping their beef (some as far as 7,500 miles) into the U.S.? Here are a few of countries, who imported into the U.S. in 2014:

Australia – 1,082,676,000 pounds
Canada – 602,154,000 pounds
New Zealand – 597,115,000 pounds
Mexico – 310,155,000 pounds
Nicaragua – 138,972,000 pounds
Uruguay – 91,859,000 pounds
Brazil – 81,463,000 pounds
Costa Rica – 28,859,000 pounds
Honduras – 9,033,000 pounds

The other side of this free trade, which forces us to import lower grade beef than we export, is the advantage to the exporting countries who can get rid of lower quality food that may not be palatable to their citizens.

It’s another win-win for the corporations, who devise these schemes, and the politicians who are subscribed to them. For the rest of us it’s another lose-lose as consumers.

3 thoughts on “In the moood for U.S. Prime beef, go to Europe!

  1. We experienced this aboard the Queen Mary 2 a few years ago. Best beef I’d had in years and clearly not to be found at home in the grocery.


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