Who We Are

Beef Industry History

1493Christopher Columbus introduces cattle to the Western Hemisphere on his second voyage to the New World.
1519Hernando Cortez brings first cattle to North American continent, setting up ranches in Mexico. Often the cattle roamed wild and later came to the United States by way of Texas and California. Around the same time, a cattle industry is also emerging in Florida.
1620An estimated 500-head herd of cattle is established in Virginia; by 1639, there are 30,000.
1625Cattle from England and northern Europe begin arriving in New York.
1779First cattle trail in North America, from San Antonio, Texas to the Louisiana Territory.
1805First recorded Northern cattle drive from Circleville, Ohio. Western farmers seek livestock markets in populous East.
1810First State Fair held in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. It is called the Berkshire Cattle Fair.
1852Railroads reach Chicago from East, adding to the westward spread of livestock raising and feeding. Five different railroads establish their own stockyards there.
1862President Abraham Lincoln creates the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to administer agricultural programs. It is called the “people’s department” because farmers make up more than half of the population.
1865Union Stockyards in Chicago become hub of livestock industry.
1867Kansas Pacific Railroad reaches Abilene, Kansas, establishing a gateway for Texas trail herds to reach eastern consumer markets. Cattle drives begin. First shipment of cattle from Abilene to Chicago.
1875Chilled beef is transported from New York to Europe in refrigerated ships, followed by a frozen shipment to England the following year.
1878Meat packer Gustavus Swift perfects the refrigerated railcar, greatly expanding the market for perishable products.
1880Western cattle boom begins.
1883First national gathering of cattlemen called by U.S. Commissioner of Agriculture, George Loring. A permanent organization, The National Cattle Growers Association, is established at a second meeting in 1884.
1884Along with the establishment of the Bureau of Animal Industry, the Animal and Plant Inspection Service is established as part of USDA.
1886Worst ever recorded winter for cattle producers, putting many western producers out of business.
1900First International Livestock Exposition in Chicago.
1904First livestock auction market opened in Union, Iowa. By 1952, there are 2,500 public auctions.
1904A reporter for the New York Tribune writes from the St. Louis World’s Fair of a new sandwich called a hamburger. Fletcher Davis is credited with inventing the hamburger, which consisted of fried ground beef patties served with hot mustard and sliced onions on homemade bread.
1906U.S. Food and Drug Administration established to ensure wholesome and truthfully labeled foods; first Food Administrator, Herbert C. Hoover, appointed in 1917.
1906Upton Sinclair writes “The Jungle”; leads to Meat Inspection Act.
1911First motor truck delivery of livestock reaches Indianapolis. Prior to that, all livestock were transported via railroad.
1922National Live Stock and Meat Board (“Meat Board”) is founded to conduct meat promotion, research and education efforts funded by a voluntary, per-head checkoff fee collected from livestock producers and voluntarily matched by packers.
1922First voluntary checkoff deductions of 5 cents per carload (25 head of cattle per car) are requested by the Meat Board.
1926USDA introduces beef grading standards so packing plants can better meet customer needs for different beef qualities.
1930Voluntary checkoff deduction rate increases to 25 cents per carload (or 1 cent per head).
1933First Farm Bill, called the “Agricultural Adjustment Act” passed by Congress to establish and maintain a balance between the production and consumption of agricultural commodities.
1934Taylor Grazing Act passed to regulate the use of public lands for grazing of cattle and sheep and prevent overgrazing, by leasing public lands to ranchers.
1941War time price controls are placed on beef; a large “black market” emerges.
1945“Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle” is published providing cattle producers with a guide for feeding cattle.
1947Beef consumption reaches the highest level in 40 years, with prices 125 percent greater than in
1941Cattle producers struggle to keep up with new demand for beef.
1953Voluntary checkoff deduction rate increases to 2 cents per head.
1953“Great Cattle Bust” begins, brought on by drought, grasshoppers and fire. Continues until 1957.
1958Humane Slaughter Act passed to govern livestock handling procedures in meat packing plants.
1960Transportation shifts from rail to truck; slaughter operations built near feedyards and moved from centralized city stockyards.
1962Voluntary checkoff deduction rate increases to 3 cents per head.
1964Meat Import Act passed; formula limits imports to 6.7 percent of domestic production.
1967Boxed beef is introduced providing more conveniently sized cuts for retailers and butchers.
1968Cattle-Fax is established to provide cattle and beef industry statistics and market and economic analysis.
1973Texas Cattle Feeders Association proposes uniform Beef Checkoff Program. Task force appointed to study proposal.
1978The Humane Slaughter Act of 1978 dictates strict animal handling and slaughter practices which are closely monitored by government inspectors.
1985Farm Bill creates Beef Promotion and Research Act establishing the Beef Checkoff Program and enabling cattle producers to create, finance and carry out a coordinated program of research, industry and consumer information and promotion. Beef checkoff collections of $1 per head begin.
1987Beef Quality Assurance program officially started to help beef producers meet customer expectations for safety and quality.
1987American Heart Association endorses beef as a healthy food.
1987Cattle first sold via satellite in “video auctions.”
1988Beef producers approve continuation of The Beef Checkoff in a national referendum.
1989Veal Quality Assurance program initiated.
1991Beef industry’s Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) established to provide opportunity to showcase the environmental stewardship and profitable business practices that exist together on progressive farms and ranches.
1994USDA mandates safe food handling instructions on labels of fresh and frozen meat and poultry items packaged in retail supermarkets.
1994Beef industry Blue Ribbon Task Force reports on ways to eliminate E. coli O157:H7 in beef.
1996Beef Quality Assurance Advisory Board develops first structured animal care guidelines known as the “Producer Code of Cattle Care.”
1996National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is formed from a merger of the National Cattlemen’s Association and the Beef Industry Council of the National Live Stock and Meat Board.
1997Beef producers join with government and other industry groups to fund launch of the Partnership for Food Safety Education and the consumer program, Fight BAC!
1997Beef Industry Food Safety Council (BIFSCo) formed to develop industry-wide, science-based strategies for addressing E. coli.
1998Meat packing facilities implement Food and Drug Administration Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system aimed at preventing hazards that could cause foodborne illness. The HACCP principles apply science-based means of assuring food safety from harvest to consumption.
1999Parity study published in Archives of Internal Medicine finds beef works as well as chicken in a cholesterol-lowering diet.
2000Muscle-profiling study findings presented to industry to help find new, convenient ways of preparing the 39 muscles from the chuck and the round detailed in study.
2001Flat Iron Steak introduced after research on undervalued cuts of beef finds new ways to cut the steaks from the chuck.
2002USDA national standards for organically grown agriculture products implemented.
2002Task force organized to develop a plan of work for creating a national animal identification program.
2003Bovine genome sequencing project initiated. Researchers announce first phase of sequencing work complete in 2004.
2003Industry leaders approve expanded version of “Guidelines for the Care and Handling of Cattle.”
2004Carcass Merit project completed, validating DNA markers for economically important carcass and consumer satisfaction traits.
2005USDA announces E. coli O157:H7 prevalence dropped by more than 80 percent in four years.
2005Nutrient database shows 29 cuts of beef meet government guidelines for lean.