A program being run with the assistance of Texas A&M Univ. hopes to reestablish a viable beef industry in Iraq. The project brings together the Inma Agribusiness Program at A&M, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Iraqi government and non-governmental organizations.

"The beef industry in Iraq was in very bad shape before the fall of Saddam Hussein," Dr. Ma’ad Mohammed, who heads the Inma Project at the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at the university, told MEATPOULTRY.com. "We were having to depend 100 percent on the private sector. The government agencies that were supposed to be involved were unfunctional, completely unfunctional."

Dr. Mohammed was a professor of agriculture at the University of Baghdad until he left Iraq in the fall of 2006. He said that beef production in the country is mostly grass-fed. "There’s pastureland in Iraq scattered here and there," he said, countering the popular view that the country is nothing but sandy desert. He added that beef producers in Iraq have been thrilled with the project. "Finally they have found someone who is paying attention to them," he told MEATPOULTRY.com.

Inma is helping rebuild beef production as well as beef marketing, improving packinghouses, and developing agricultural data systems to help re-establish a market-driven beef economy. The project is also helping improve soil, pasture and forage – it has a goal of establishing 30 feedlots throughout Iraq -- and is involved in efforts to improve meat transport under refrigeration. According to reports, demand for beef in Iraq outweighs supply. (As a mostly Muslim country, beef and lamb are the preferred red meats in Iraq.)

A symposium held last June at the Al Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad titled "Livestock Feedlots: More Meat, More Income" brought together more than 140 people, including livestock producers, feedlot operators, feed producers and meat processors as well as Dr. Akram Al Hakeem, the agriculture minister of Iraq.

"We are very pleased with the way things are going at this point," Dr. Mohammed said. "Very pleased."