Beef numbers are on the rise in Wisconsin, according to John Freitag, executive director of Wisconsin Beef Council Inc.
"We have 275,000 head of beef cattle," Freitag notes.
The number of beef herds in the Dairy State clearly out number dairy herds. There are 14,800 beef farms in Wisconsin compared to 9,890 dairy farms.
That's not to say there are more beef cattle in Wisconsin than dairy cattle — there are 1.27 million head of dairy cows — but there are more farms producing beef than dairy in Wisconsin.
The average beef herd size in Wisconsin is 18 head.
The production of cattle for beef supports 14,000 jobs in Wisconsin, and produces $631 million in income and $1.86 billion in industrial revenues, according to the Wisconsin Beef Council. Beef processing generates 20,900 jobs and $1.47 billion in total income, along with $4.9 billion in industrial revenues.
Wisconsin ranks fifth in the nation in the number of cattle harvested, at 1,744,000, and fifth in total pounds of live weight, according to a National Agricultural Statistics Service survey. Wisconsin ranks 11th in the U.S. for the number of cattle on feed. Wisconsin and the top 10 states combined account for 87% of the nation's domestic beef production.
While a majority of beef raised in this state comes from dairy steers, Freitag says a variety of beef cattle are raised in Wisconsin, too.
"Our beef industry is interesting because of the diversity in breeds," says. "That's also one of our beef industry's biggest challenges, because we don't have the consistency in our beef supply that the consumer demands and deserves. When a chef has 1,500 diners in his restaurant the same night, all of those steaks should be the same size, or he's going to have a problem preparing them."
In 2010, chicken passed beef as the No. 1 meat consumed in the U.S., according to the USDA. In 2010, 56.7 pounds of beef was consumed per person, compared to 58 pounds of chicken and 44.3 pounds of pork. In 2000, each person ate an average of 64.5 pounds of beef, 45.2 pounds of chicken and 47.8 pounds of pork.
Demand for beef has been steadily improving over the last several years. Thirty-five percent of consumers are eating beef three or more times a week, according to the Consumer Beef Index. This number could continue to rise as 18% of consumers say that they will be eating more beef compared to the 15% that plan to eat less. Beef's image continues to improve and is at a four-year high with 77% of consumers having a positive perception of beef.
"Beef can truly create that perfect family meal and is still what consumers want for dinner," Freitag says.