All indications are that beef production will continue to consolidate, with fewer producers producing the same or greater amounts of beef. Consumer demand and economics are currently favorable for beef. Three important challenges facing the beef industry are food safety, environmental challenges, and data management or traceability. Food safety concerns are E. coli O157:H7 in beef products and the recent bovine spongiform encephalopathy cases in North America. The predominant environmental issues facing beef feedlots that are currently being addressed are nitrogen volatilization and P distribution. Some perceive runoff control from open-lot production systems as an environmental challenge, but most operations with greater than 1000-head capacity already control runoff. Finally, numerous changes will be initiated in beef production in the next few years related to tracing beef products from conception to consumption. Although tracing beef animals will create some challenges, it will be required to minimize repercussions from foreign and domestic animal disease and food pathogen outbreaks. Many positive steps have been taken by the beef industry in the past 10 years, focusing on consumers and beef products. Continued focus will only improve beef demand in the future, because beef is a wholesome, nutritious, and safe food product.
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