My favorite book in the Bible is Exodus. The first time I read it, I remember getting so frustrated with the Israelites. How could they be so close to the Promised Land and mess everything up?!
It’s mind boggling to look at a historical map and realize they crisscrossed a patch of land the size of a few large ranches for 40 years before finally reaching their destination.
As I’ve reread it many times, I’ve come to see myself in their struggles — complaining about the manna when God provided food, creating false idols when they only needed to be still and wait. Oh, how I am guilty of the same sins.
Those passages in the beginning of the Good Book are a reminder that we can’t have the mountaintop views without first crossing the valleys — sometimes more than once.
There are no words I can write that will take away the devastating slap of a market drop, the pain of a postponed bull sale or the exhausting frustration that things feel out of control and it’s cattlemen who get the short end of the stick. But this is not a burden cattlemen carry alone. Our partners down the supply chain who normally serve our steaks with pride are going without paychecks they expected. For too many, the restaurant bustling with business just a weeks ago will now be shuttered forever.
The Israelites survived generations of slavery. They overcame the plagues. They persisted through enormous struggles only to be left to wander a stone’s throw away from glory, fated to suffer more before reaching their destination.
Cattlemen, too, know hard times. We endured when the rain shut off in 2012, bounced back after a cow stole Christmas, survived the ’80s Farm Crisis and have the blood running through our veins of those who made it through the Great Depression.
This too shall pass. We don’t know when, we don’t know how. The only thing we can do is continue on course — producing exceptional beef that flies off the grocery shelves in both good times and bad.
Though many have a poor taste in their mouth seeing others profit while staring at a wrecked spring budget sheet, if we refuse to cut corners on our consumer experience, the reward will come in time. Today, producing high-quality beef may not be the thing that makes an extra dollar, but those who faithfully invested in carcass merit will lose less as we cross this valley.
Many might compare the last year or so in the cattle business to torment, but what’s a tough couple of years when the Israelites wandered in the desert for four decades? The beef industry today looks vastly different than it did 40 years ago and those who persevered through the challenges of those days saw many good years, too.
In troubled times, the comfort of food and good beef in the freezer keeps many content and healthy at home. When we’re all able to get back into our favorite steakhouse, cattlemen who can produce a quality celebratory steak dinner will still be in high demand.
The page will eventually turn. Those who ride out the storm and build better herds that target premium quality will see their persistence pay. As we walk through the unknown ahead, the one sure thing is the world will still need great beef and those who raise it.