Career Options in the Modern Beef Industry

Published on Thu, 09/22/2022 - 2:00pm

Career Options in the Modern Beef Industry.

 By Jaclyn Krymowski.

 Like every niche industry, the beef industry is changing. With the changes come new career opportunities as well. Traditional jobs working directly on the farm and ranch are no longer the sole choice for those interested in beef industry careers. As the industry evolves and more companies in the ag-tech space sprout, career options evolve as well.

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, nearly 1 million Americans are involved in traditional farm-related careers. However, “nontraditional” careers in food and agriculture have exploded. Today more than 21 million people work in occupations off the farm in the agriculture industry.

Contrary to what you might think, the market is not flooded with job seekers. Many beef employers struggle to engage or find skilled, willing workers to fill positions across a spectrum of specialties. This stretches across the food chain, from the ranch to the feedlot to the processor and the shipper.

And while labor has been a challenge for employers across the nation, agriculture is an industry that battles fiercely over good candidates. Perhaps there are fewer new faces because opportunities are undiscovered, many offering highly-competitive wages.

Today’s beef industry landscape
The modern U.S. beef industry and its careers span the gamut. To bring beef to the dinner table requires jobs in food science, ranching, research, veterinary medicine, and animal science. Office jobs and leadership positions are also widely available.

As consumers ask for new products, careers require skills in meat, higher education, business development and consumer science categories. These sectors may be attractive to undergraduates who are passionate about beef, but not so passionate about the long hours and physical demands associated with traditional ag occupations.

As the agriculture industry becomes more complicated, there has been a sharp uptick in demand for skills necessary for h advocacy organizations, public relations and marketing promotions and corporate leadership. As well, the technology sphere, which includes both seasoned and new companies looking to delve further into the areas of data collection, software engineering and equipment innovation, have increased their employee payrolls.

Though on and off-farm beef employers are receiving more applications from college graduates, there are loads of jobs available that require a minimum of a high school diploma and relevant experience or training.

Into the future
Cattle production and meat processing typically are demanding roles that require both physical capabilities and skill. Unfortunately, wages in beef and other agricultural sectors have fallen behind manual jobs outside the industry. Lower pay due to overtime hours, lower entry wages, location, and profitability.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, up to 85,000 jobs in the cattle industry are likely to go unfilled and the hiring rate unchanged over the next 10 years. These openings are due to many ranchers and ranch workers retiring in the near future.

This is not just a struggle for employees, but ranchers and farmers themselves. Slimmer profit margins are a major reason up-and-coming generations are hesitant to take over the family operation. Some take the plunge, though by working an additional job off the ranch. This can provide major benefits such as competitive pay and benefits.

Tools that reduce the amount of manual labor required to operate a farm and ranch offer opportunities in two ways. They enable farmers to operate the business with less labor and open up careers servicing the equipment.

The impact of innovation
Technology has certainly driven career diversity in the beef industry. Innovations have helped producers and consultants operate businesses in ways that were undreamed of even a decade ago.

Advances in technology, such as sensors, drones, robots and artificial intelligence, are all showing great promise for the beef industry. They enable producers to boost efficiency, use less manual labor, become more sustainable and produce more products.

Monitoring systems with wireless sensors allow producers to virtually track and monitor animal health and comfort while obtaining large amounts of data to make better decisions. Some systems even track animal health, which reduces the time treating animals or surveying them through pen-riders or cowboys.

Ranches and feedlots are in the early phases of utilizing drones to track animal movement and eating habits. Robots equipped with artificial intelligence to mix and deliver feed are becoming more common in the effort to deliver a ration that is nutritionally balanced, yet maximizes profit.

The bottom line is that there is a dire need for skilled professionals in the industry. To fill these roles, employers and ranchers must use both seasoned players and new, young people who want to grow and thrive in a career in this space.