Beef numbers are on the rise in Wisconsin, according to John Freitag, executive director of the Wisconsin Beef Council, Inc. Since 1986, the beef cow inventory has decreased by 8.5% in the United States, but has grown by 44% in Wisconsin.
"We rank third in the United States for increasing cattle numbers with 265,000 head of beef cattle," Freitag notes. Only Nebraska and Washington are gaining more beef cattle than Wisconsin.
In fact, for the first time in more than 100 years, there are more beef herds in the Dairy State than there are dairy herds. There are 14,800 beef farms in Wisconsin compared to 11,200 dairy farms. That's not to say there are more beef cattle in Wisconsin than dairy cows – there's 1.2 million dairy cows – but there are more farms raising beef cattle than there are dairy farms in Wisconsin!
The average beef herd size in Wisconsin is 18. Wisconsin ranks 12th in the U.S.
The production of cattle for beef supports 14,000 jobs in Wisconsin, $631 million in income and $1.86 billion in industrial revenues, according 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.
"The production of beef cattle combined with processing generates more than $200 million in state and local government revenues," Freitag points out.
Wisconsin ranks sixth in the nation in the number of cattle harvested 1,744,000 and sixth in total pounds of live weight, according to a 2012 National Ag Statistics Service. Wisconsin ranks 12th in the U.S. for the number of cattle on feed. Wisconsin and the top 11 states combined account for 87% of the nation's domestic red meat production.
While a majority of beef raised in Wisconsin comes from dairy steers, Freitag says there are a variety of beef cattle raised in Wisconsin, too.
"Our beef industry is interesting because there is a lot of diversity in breeds," he says. "That's also one of the beef industry's biggest challenges because we don't have the consistency the consumer demands and deserves. When a chef has 1,500 people he's preparing a meal for at a banquet, all of those steaks should be the same size or he's going to have a problem preparing them."
The top 10 beef counties in Wisconsin are:
- St. Croix
Consumer demandIn 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 64.5 pounds of beef, 45.2 pounds of chicken and 47.8 pounds of pork. The numbers are a bit deceiving, Freitag says, because the chicken includes bones and the beef and pork numbers do not.