Cattlemen's convention stampedes into Owensboro

Richard Martin of Gro-Tec Inc., left, listens to Glenn Spencer talk about the AmeriAg’s mineral livestock feeder on Thursday at the 2020 Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Convention and Ag Industry Trade Show at the Owensboro Convention Center.

Competition from plant-based protein products to beef prices for producers were among the topics of the 2020 Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Convention and Trade Show that kicked off Thursday at the Owensboro Convention Center.

The two-day annual winter convention is expected to draw more than 1,200 cattlemen across the state who will take part in various educational classes and hear from experts in the beef industry.

And with the introduction of “fake meat” or plant-based protein products into the grocery and restaurant markets, Tim White, the outgoing KCA president, said the issue remains a hot topic with

cattle producers.

White said a step forward was taken in 2019 when the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation that prohibits companies from labeling plant-based or lab-grown products as meat.

But White said the issue goes beyond labeling because of the lack of government scrutiny when it comes to safety, bio-security and nutrition with the plant-based protein products.

“We’re not fighting for people not to have fake meat or they can’t have the Impossible Burger,” White said. “We want the USDA to regulate them like they do us and that’s something that’s still being fought over today.”

Daniel Hayden, president of the Daviess County Cattlemen’s Association, said the fake meat topic will be an agenda item discussed before the convention ends.

“If we continue to stay as proactive as we’ve been on this, I don’t think it will be near as a risk to us,” Hayden said. “It seems pretty cool now; it’s trendy … but once people start getting educated about the nutritional breakdown of it and what’s actually in (fake meat), it’s totally different than what beef is.”

Market prices were also at the forefront of the cattlemen’s conversation.

On Thursday, the average price per pound was $1.27 for live cattle — heifers and steers that have attained desirable weight to be sold to a packer.

Dennis Vaughn, a Simpson County cattle producer attending the convention, said it’s tough to see ground beef selling for more than $4 a pound in the grocery store while knowing he and his fellow cattlemen are receiving a quarter of that price.

“Our beef (per pound) has been about the same for the last I don’t know how many years,” Vaughn said. “But the cost of pickup trucks, tractors and bail twine keeps going up. So that makes it difficult.”

According to the KCA, Kentucky is the largest cattle producing state east of the Mississippi River. The Bluegrass State is home to more than 1.1 million beef cows and ranks 5th nationally in the total number of cattle farms. The KCA boasts 99 chapters in 120 counties, totaling 38,000-plus cattle producers.

This is the second straight year for the KCA to hold its convention in Owensboro. It will return again in 2021 before heading back to Lexington for two years.

Hayden said having the cattlemen’s convention in Daviess County makes a difference for western Kentucky beef producers.

“If you think about Murray, Paducah, and Graves County, that’s a long drive to Lexington,” Hayden said. “…It gives everybody in this area time to still work on their farms but gives them an opportunity to take advantage of the beef efficiency conference.”

The cattlemen’s convention continues Friday with the trade show at 8 a.m. and features 75 vendors. There is a $25 entry fee for the public.

White, a second-generation cattle farmer from Lexington, said he has been impressed with the amenities of the Owensboro Convention Center as well as the entire downtown.

“For one, it’s beautiful and it’s well laid out,” White said. “…What’s really nice here is that you pull in, go to the hotel and walk across the street and you’re here. …Owensboro has really stepped it up.”

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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