Cattle-Raising Towns Brace for Mad Cow Effect

Beef Industry Is Biggest Employer in Rural Cuming County, Neb.

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Cattle in Cuming County, Nebraska

Hungry cattle at a feed trough in Cuming County, Nebraska, where cattle outnumber people 50 to 1. Howard Berkes, NPR News hide caption

toggle caption Howard Berkes, NPR News

It's not clear yet how the mad cow scare will affect rural communities dependent on agriculture. Some experienced a boom in crop and cattle prices just before the United States' first case of the disease. Their response to that boom hints at how they might be affected by a mad cow decline.

NPR's Howard Berkes recently visited Cuming County, Neb., where cattle outnumber people by more than 50 to 1. The biggest local employer is a beef processing plant. Thanks to variety of factors — the declining U.S. dollar, demand for meat fueled by the Atkins Diet — the region's cattle industry had enjoyed the benefits of record beef prices. But few local cattle producers went on a spending spree. Instead, they paid down debt, built up savings and trimmed their taxes by replacing worn equipment.

Despite the recent announcement of the first U.S. mad cow case, local cattle producers are confident that domestic and overseas meat eaters will soon be convinced American beef is safe. If demand for U.S. beef plummets, layoffs will follow throughout rural America, which is home to half of all meat industry jobs.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from