What would people say if asked to name two things that have made America great? If you asked me, I'd tell you - the Constitution and our founding fathers aside - that two things that have made America what it is today are the automobile and beef steak.
For those of you who said Joe Garagiola and Dr. Joyce Brothers, I can offer no hope.The automobile has not only changed our social behavior, and spawned vast industries, but has given us the freedom of the road - and created the necessity for highways, fostered shopping centers and suburban living, and made gasoline one of the most important substances on earth.
Despite all the clamor for non-red meat from dieters, and the traditional turkey dinner most people will be having for Thanksgiving, the cow in America is king of the beasts.
Just as the beaver hat pushed the mountain men west to trap beaver pelts, helping to start Western settlement, the Easterner's hunger for beef steak, especially after the Civil War, spurred the development of the West. The cowboy led Americans into Texas and surrounding Western areas.
Much of the hay and grain grown in this country ends up as red meat. In Utah, cattle production is the largest single agricultural industry, amounting to more than 30 percent of our cash commodity farm receipts.
If you add milk production, which is 24 percent of our cash farm receipts, you end up with more than 54 percent. And if you add food grains and hay production, which mostly ends up as meat on the hoof, you can see how vital cattle are to Utah's economy.
The same picture can be found in most other states across the nation. In fact, cattle and calves are the number one farm commodity in the United States, amounting to nearly $29 billion dollars annually. Dairy products are second, at nearly $18 billion.
America's poultry and egg industry produces only about one-fifth of the gross farm income that comes from the red meat industry - cattle, hogs and sheep.
As far as farm exports are concerned, livestock and livestock products are at the top of the heap.
In terms of per capita consumption nationally, Americans eat about 145 pounds of beef, veal, lamb, mutton, and pork annually and they eat nearly 600 pounds of dairy products, including cheese, milk, and ice cream.
Beef consumption has gone up considerably since 1960. Americans ate about 64 pounds of beef a year in 1960 and today eat, on the average, nearly 80 pounds of beef annually. The only decline in beef consumption in those years was from a record high of 88 pounds in 1975.
Turkey consumption is up, from six pounds per capita in 1960 to 12 pounds today; and people eat nearly twice as much chicken today as they did in 1960 - from about 28 pounds to more than 57 pounds. Egg consumption is down, however, from 42 pounds in 1960 to about 32 pounds today.
Still, poultry and egg consumption is a long way from the amount of red meat consumed in America. It will be a long time before you see a Hollywood Western where there are turkeyboys and chicken stampedes.
The poultry and fish industries have made a great deal out of the cholesterol hubbub, but the votes from scientists and researchers haven't all been counted. A lot more testing and investigating needs to be done. In the meantime, red meat has been given a black eye in the media.
Ranchers and processers have responded with lean beef and fat-trimmed cuts that now appear in the nation's supermarkets. Restaurants serve leaner steaks, but with no loss of taste. The first man to smack his lips over a meal was probably eating steak.
Go ahead and have turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, but if you should have a steak or even a hamburger instead, don't feel you are being unpatriotic. You will actually be eating the all-American meal.