National Cattlemen's Beef Association convention and trade show rolls into Tampa this week

Florida had first cattle nearly 500 years ago

TAMPA, Fla. - In the Wendy's commercial from a generation ago, a woman asks the now-famous question, 'Where's the Beef?'

"When she asks, 'Where's the beef?,' today, it's downtown Tampa," laughed Rod Nulik of Purina Animal Nutrition.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association will call Tampa home for the next five days; they're calling it 'Boots on the Bay.'  The five-day convention and trade show is expected to draw more than 5,000 people from around the country.

"It's a chance for us from across the nation to come and see what Florida has to offer," said J.D. Alexander, President of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

This is the 115th year for the cattlemen's convention, and it's the first time they've come to the bay area. But the folks from the Florida Cattlemen's Association will remind you that nearly 500 years ago, the Sunshine State is where it all got started.

"In 1521, the first cattle arrived in Florida, in North America.  They came right here, just south of Tampa Bay.  The first cattle were unloaded off the ships and that was the birthplace of the cattle industry in North America.  We're pretty proud of that," explained Woody Larson, President of the Florida Cattlemen's Association.

Severe drought conditions have hit many of the cattle-producing states in the Midwest over the last couple years.

"Florida is even more critical as a beef producer to the rest of the country," said Larson.

In fact, Florida is home to more than a million head of cattle.

"They're not on the beaten path, or maybe you don't see so much of them out on the interstates or down at Disney, but there's a lot of cattle here, and a lot of sophisticated cattle producers in Florida," Nulik said.

"They've got great cattle.  They've got great ranches and they provide a product that is essential to the future of our industry," Alexander echoed.

So when you see someone in their cowboy hat this week, say 'howdy' and make 'em feel welcome.

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