top of page

Inflation drives a cattle crisis for Missouri farmers

Farmers and consumers alike are frustrated with high beef prices. Rancher Ben Thomas says the price tag at the grocery store doesn't help with rising costs at his Trenton farm.

Edited by Elizabeth Underwood

Written story by Jordan Thornsberry for Vox Magazine | Read here

Cattle farmer Ben Thomas loads bags of minerals into his UTV before driving to tend livestock on Oct. 6, 2022, at his farm in Trenton, Mo. Thomas says his family beef business is struggling to make a profit as multinational meat packing monopolies continue to shrink the revenue that goes to farmers.

After starting his day before 7 a.m., Thomas gets into his UTV to drop off nutritional minerals in bins around his property. Thomas is the vice president of the Independent Cattlemen of Missouri, an interest group advocating for fair market systems for independent cattle farmers.

Insects swarm around the backs of Ben Thomas’s cattle at his family farm. Thomas raises a combination of Hereford and Black Angus cattle.

Thomas throws an empty bag of minerals into the back of his UTV as one of his Hereford cattle crowds around the remaining bags of feed. A change that could help cattle farmers, Thomas says, is reinstating the mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling, legislation that requires stores label where meat is from. “Nobody likes being lied to,” Thomas says. “It’s an American-last type of policy.”

Thomas uses a recycled Folgers coffee container to pour nutritional minerals into his cattle’s feed bins. “There’s very little profitability in the cattle industry,” Thomas says. “You work hard and there’s hardly any profit left.”

One of Thomas’s cattle licks nutritional minerals off of its nose. Thomas rotates where his cattle graze so the greenery they eat has time to regenerate.

Cattle march down a hill toward a freshly loaded feed bin on Thomas' farm. “Other farmers are growing beans and corn and losing their topsoil, but cattle farmers are the ones being called unsustainable,” Thomas says.

Thomas greets his 7-year-old daughter Celia. Thomas has two other young children, an 8-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. “If my little boy wants to have the chance to raise cattle, we’re going to need to see some change,” Thomas says. “I want my kids, I want my neighbor’s kids, I want them to be able to enjoy the American dream.”

bottom of page