Cattle grazing has been an integral part of our culture and economic growth ever since Spanish explorers began settling on Florida’s coasts in the 1500s. The explorers brought their cattle with them for food, later increasing cattle production and turning the industry into a profitable trade for Florida.

According to Jorge R. Rey in the University of Florida Publication, "Florida Cracker Cattle," cattle grazing was the first true commercial industry to develop in the New World. Rey explains that cattle were traded with Cuba early on. During the Civil War, Florida was the No. 1 supplier of beef for both the Confederate and Union sides. After the war, pioneer families continued trading cattle with Cuba, which helped refinance the war-torn economy, ultimately turning Florida into America’s leading exporter.

In 2011, Florida ranked 11th nationally in beef cows and 19th in total cattle, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. While cattle operations throughout the United States have decreased over the past several decades, in 2011, the U.S. regained the top spot over Brazil as the leading beef exporter in the world, and the U.S. is still the largest beef producer.