As I read about Amazon’s interest in grass fed beef I have mixed feeling.  Part of me is glad of the national attention this will bring to the benefits of grass based agriculture, benefits to human, animal, and environmental health.  The other part of me is very concerned, usually, when a player of this size becomes interested in a movement, the movement gets hijacked and diluted and polluted.

Another day, another sign of Amazon’s ambitious plans to shake up the American food system. Reuters reports that on Wednesday, representatives from the e-commerce giant will meet with a small, influential group of ranchers who specialize in organic and grass-fed beef. Read More…

The very real problems of a large party trying to get into an industry like grass fed beef is that scaling up is difficult.  Given the land and skill, not to mention the additional time, it takes to raise good grass fed beef a ramrod approach is going to cause real harm.  Think about the logistics of the job.  The cattle need to be 2 years old, on grass, spread out around the countryside to be eating grass.   One large processing plant in an area large enough for Amazon to consider it feasible will need to be located near a population center, not in the rural areas near the cows.  So you will stress the cattle moving them to this plant.  And the cattle will need to be aggregated, read confined, in larger groups near the plant.  This starts to look a lot like our current system.

Then there is the problem of competition.  If Amazon heads into the business, the price premium for grass fed beef is likely to fall, given their scale of economies.  This will be a blow to any competition from small operations.  They will no longer be able to compete, leaving one player in the market, just like the current situation in commodity beef.

If Amazon can act in the cattlemen’s interest and disperse smaller processing plants around the countryside and aggregate the smaller cattlemen’s cattle after processing it could work.  It has great potential to help stimulate the growth and increased prosperity of the cattle growers.  But it seems unlikely that a company of Amazon’s size will be looking out for the little guy but rather tend to work to only create profits for their shareholders at the expense of everything else.

For these reasons and many more that will arise as I think about this more, this move scares me and could very well drive independent grass fed business out.  It will depend on how Amazon proceeds.

As I read about Amazon’s interest in grass fed beef I have mixed feeling.  Part of me is glad of the national attention this will bring to the benefits of grass based agriculture, benefits to human, animal, and environmental health.  The other part of me is very concerned, usually, when a player of this size becomes interested in a movement, the movement gets hijacked and diluted and polluted.

Another day, another sign of Amazon’s ambitious plans to shake up the American food system. Reuters reports that on Wednesday, representatives from the e-commerce giant will meet with a small, influential group of ranchers who specialize in organic and grass-fed beef. Read More…

The very real problems of a large party trying to get into an industry like grass fed beef is that scaling up is difficult.  Given the land and skill, not to mention the additional time, it takes to raise good grass fed beef a ramrod approach is going to cause real harm.  Think about the logistics of the job.  The cattle need to be 2 years old, on grass, spread out around the countryside to be eating grass.   One large processing plant in an area large enough for Amazon to consider it feasible will need to be located near a population center, not in the rural areas near the cows.  So you will stress the cattle moving them to this plant.  And the cattle will need to be aggregated, read confined, in larger groups near the plant.  This starts to look a lot like our current system.

Then there is the problem of competition.  If Amazon heads into the business, the price premium for grass fed beef is likely to fall, given their scale of economies.  This will be a blow to any competition from small operations.  They will no longer be able to compete, leaving one player in the market, just like the current situation in commodity beef.

If Amazon can act in the cattlemen’s interest and disperse smaller processing plants around the countryside and aggregate the smaller cattlemen’s cattle after processing it could work.  It has great potential to help stimulate the growth and increased prosperity of the cattle growers.  But it seems unlikely that a company of Amazon’s size will be looking out for the little guy but rather tend to work to only create profits for their shareholders at the expense of everything else.

For these reasons and many more that will arise as I think about this more, this move scares me and could very well drive independent grass fed business out.  It will depend on how Amazon proceeds.

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