Beef is the culinary name for meat derived from bovines, especially domestic cattle. The flesh of mature cattle is termed beef and is distinguished from veal, the flesh of calves. The best beef is obtained from steers (castrated males) and heifers (female cows that have not calved).
In some CARICOM countries, the beef industry has faced challenges. In Jamaica, according to Agritrade, in 2012 production was less than one-half of what it was 10 years earlier. The CEO of Jamaica Broilers, pointed out in December 2011 that “poultry gets real protection with duties totalling 260% while only the common external tariff of 20% – plus additional stamp duties – is applied to beef imports.” It was further noted that the price in US dollar terms of imported beef “has increased by 46% over the last 10 years.”
The situation was complicated by the trade in ‘beef trimmings’ (fat trimmed from beef carcasses). The Chair of the Jamaican Livestock Association maintained that “beef trimmings import is also creating a serious problem for local farmers.” The Caribbean market for beef trimmings for use in patties and burgers saw imports grow from 49.5 tonnes before 2005 to 1,500 tonnes in 2011.
In November 2011, a new commercial livestock farm dedicated to producing quality beef was formally opened in Trinidad and Tobago, indicating a wider interest in the renewal of beef production in the Caribbean region.
An FAO report on Animal Genetic Resources for the Caribbean, says that after poultry, beef and veal are the most important meat products in the Caribbean with Jamaica producing more than 60% of the Caribbean subregion’s total beef and veal meat. Throughout the region, imports of beef meat decreased by 54% in the 10 years up to 2007.
The report goes on to state that on most of the islands in the region, cattle herds are mostly small with a sector dominated by part-time, landless livestock farmers who own small numbers of animals. Production is often limited by:
- health problems (e.g. the tropical bont tick Amblyomma variegatum)
- inadequate access to lands
- absence of a livestock extension service
- absence of organized, efficient livestock production and marketing systems
Jamaica has rather favourable conditions for livestock production and particularly for dairying. It boasts:
- ample pastureland
- no water shortage
- a well-adapted cattle breed, the Jamaica Hope
In Jamaica, while there are two very large farms each with over 1 000 head of cattle, some 3 000 small and medium-sized dairy farms supply the bulk of domestic milk production. Small-scale producers, owning up to ten dairy cows, make up about 80 percent of the dairy farmers. In addition there are several thousands of beef cattle farmers (most of them with only a few animals) who also produce milk.
To achieve export potential, increased productivity of the sector, systems of production and processing will have to meet better standards of animal health, food safety and food quality. (FAO, 2002).
Why invest in beef production?
- The World Bank projects very significant growth in the demand for beef and milk by developed countries until 2020
- Supplies to satisfy this projected demand are expected to come from developing countries
- There is considerable room for development in the sector to meet the growing needs for choice cuts and value added products.
- Beef is a prime product for international markets in the U.S., Canada and the E.U.