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“Where’s the Beef?”: Beef Production Clusters and County-Level Economic Vulnerability

Authors: Bonnie Elizabeth Bounds*, Texas A&M University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, United States, Applied Geography
Keywords: US beef industry, cattle, spatial autocorrelation, rural economies, rural development
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


For decades, rising incomes in the US, as well as throughout the world more generally, contributed to increased consumption of beef and other meats. Today, however, the beef industry is facing a variety of existential threats, including the development of lab-grown meat and consumer concerns over animal welfare, the health impacts of red meat consumption, and environmental responsibility. As a highly extensive form of agricultural production, beef production is a fundamentally rural industry, which means that downturns in the beef industry are likely to hit rural economies the hardest. In this analysis, I investigate spatial autocorrelation in the US beef industry to determine which US counties are potentially the most economically vulnerable to declining beef consumption. I use hotspot and cluster analysis to determine where US beef production is most highly concentrated, and I examine the economic base of selected counties located in beef production clusters in order to identify other dominant local industries. By assessing vulnerability to any future downturns in the beef industry, it may be possible to design more effective economic development strategies to help affected communities.

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