Local Meat and the Cooperative Business Model

(Submitted by Kimberly Roush, Program Assistant, Business Development Network, OSU South Centers)

Don’t miss the Co-op Center’s Farm Science Review presentation “Local Meat and the Cooperative Business Model.” Our workshop is this Thursday, 9/21, 11 a.m., at the Small Farm Center.

Consumer demand for locally produced food is sky high. A USDA Local Food Marketing Practices Survey identified over 167,000 operations across the nation selling food direct to consumers, retail, institutions and intermediaries; their sales accounted for $8.7 billion dollars in revenue. Ohio contributed $1.8 million to total direct food sales in 2015.

9.3 percent of U.S. livestock producers market products through direct sales channels. Beef, poultry, lamb, goats, pork, aquaculture and specialty animal products accounted for $648 million dollars in earnings according to the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture.

Challenges of moving meat from farm to fork:

There is a great opportunity to market local meat in Ohio and the region, but the opportunity comes with challenges. Raising animals for market takes a lot of time and effort. Farmers and ranchers have difficulty finding additional time to manage processing and distribution of meat products for direct sales.

Many farmers struggle to brand and package products in a way that appeals to consumers. They point out that agriculture, not marketing, is their area of expertise. Farmers may need to educate customers on the benefits of buying local meat. It can be a challenge to convince customers who are used to buying a tube of beef at a big box store for a fraction of the price and flavor that local meat is a better buy.

Securing a federally inspected meat processor is a major barrier to local meat production. The National Agricultural Statistics Service found the number of federally inspected cattle slaughter plants declined 12 percent between 2001 and 2013. As a result, producers have difficulty planning production to satisfy demand. They face long wait times; which may push an animal beyond target market weight range or maturity. Often farmers are forced to transport livestock long distances to slaughter.

Small operations may not produce a sufficient volume of meat to sell to restaurants, institutions and intermediaries. The alternative, selling local meat in low volume channels, may not generate enough revenue to support their livestock operation.

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