How Much Should You Charge? Pricing Your Meat Cuts

Brian F. Moyer, Education Program Associate, Business and Community Vitality, Penn State University Extension
(Previously published online: PennState Extension – December 22, 2022)

Pricing meat for direct-to-consumer sales.

It doesn’t matter if you are selling halves, quarters, or single cuts, you need to know your cost of production first. What are your costs of raising that animal from day one until the day of slaughter? In any business endeavor, keeping good records is essential to knowing if you are going to be profitable or not. Once you know your cost of production, there are some tools you can use to help you determine what price you may want to attach to your fine, farm-fresh product.

Mike Debach of the Leona Meat Plant in Troy, Pennsylvania, has a nifty process you can use thatwill help you figure out your costs after processing so you can determine your retail price. For this example, understand that the cost of production will vary depending on Continue reading

In Defense of Animal Agriculture

Dr. Francis Fluharty, Professor and Head of the Department of Animal and Dairy Science at The University of Georgia and Ohio State University Professor Emeritus

When I read online media stories that blame animal agriculture for being a large part of the environmental problems we have, it troubles me that people are so far removed from agriculture and food production that they don’t realize how connected to nature farmers are. I’m thankful for animal agriculture, from the producers who raise the livestock, to the grain farmers who grow grains and other crops whose byproducts we feed to livestock and companion animals, to the companies who produce, and distribute byproducts, to the feed companies who formulate products so that animals receive the proper nutrition, to the companies and people involved in delivering high-quality animal-based products to consumers around the world. I have often considered speaking up in defense of animal agriculture, because globally protein-energy malnutrition is the largest cause of human deaths; and in 2020, the World Health Organization estimated that more than 149 million children under the age of five were too short for their age, and another 45 million were too thin for their height.  In fact, 45% of deaths of children under five years of age are attributed to undernutrition (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/malnutrition).

The agricultural system in the United States is Continue reading

Thinking About Selling Home-based or Farm-raised Foods? See This!

The Ohio State University, Department of Extension

A recent USDA survey identified 7,107 farms in Ohio with direct food sales—the third highest state in the nation.  That might be why OSU’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program receives more legal inquiries about food sales than any other area of law.  “We are constantly surprised by the interest producers have in selling meat, produce, jams, baked goods, and similar foods directly to consumers and retailers,” said Peggy Kirk Hall, the program’s director.  To address the questions of those who want to directly market farm-raised and home-based food products to consumers, OSU Extension will host a webinar series this winter.

The “Starting a Food Business” webinar series will bring OSU’s expertise in food safety, law, product development, economics, and marketing together to help explain what a producer needs to know when planning to sell home-based and farm-raised foods.  Food businesses are challenging for many reasons, according to OSU Extension Educator Emily Marrison.

“We often see people who Continue reading

American Lamb Pricing Calculator

American Lamb Resource Center
(Previously published online: American Lamb Resource Center – Pricing Calculator)

Recently, I’ve had several conversations with lamb producers that are interested in adding value to their flock. As an example, to better connect them with their clientele, shepherds have investigated selling whole or half lamb carcasses or individual cuts. As this business venture continues to gain traction, I always encourage producers to investigate all marketing opportunities to ensure that they are getting the most out of their labors. The most common question I get when discussing this topic is: “How should I price my lamb”? Unfortunately, I can’t be the one to answer that as each operation is different in terms of overhead expenditures and operating costs. However, there is a tool available to help you in getting a fair price for your efforts. Thanks to the American Lamb Board, shepherds have a pricing calculator that can be used to set a fair market price for your meat products produced. This pricing tool also takes into consideration the live market value of your lamb to ensure that you added efforts of securing a harvest slot, storing meat, advertising, and etc. out weighs the value you would receive on the open market, thus allowing for added value of your end product.

For those interested in using this tool, please see the text provided below from the American Lamb Board. Question upon how to use this tool or how to interpret the results, let me know – I would be more than happy to help!

Pricing lamb – whether from simple or complex cutting instructions – can be a challenge. Tracking lamb produced over time at busy local lockers can also be a challenge. This Direct Marketing Lamb Business Management Tool (DMLBMT) is intended to help the direct marketer monitor productions and price product.

This DMLBMT is comprised of various components:

  • Yield Collection Template (which can also serve as an order sheet for your processor)

  • Yield Tracking Template

  • Cost/Margin/Markup Worksheet

  • Pricing/Cutout Calculator

The following will offer a chronological explanation of how to use the various components of this tool, which will require Mircosoft Excel. Downloads for both the Pricing Calculator Instructions and Pricing Calculator Excel fie can be found at https://www.lambresourcecenter.com/pricing-calculator.

Hay Cost is Not Always Indicative of Value

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower Managing Editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: August 30, 2022)

Hay comes in a variety of types, shapes, and prices. It’s relatively easy to count bales and determine tonnage for inventory purposes. Similarly, it’s also not difficult to calculate winter feed needs based on livestock numbers and the duration of time that hay will be fed.

But is there more to it than that?

Heather Gessner, a livestock business management field specialist with South Dakota State University Extension, says the pertinent question to ask is “Do I have enough bales to create a balanced ration that meets the nutritional requirements of my [livestock] through each stage of production?”

To answer the livestock specialist’s question, forage samples need to be taken and analyzed for quality. This is then matched to livestock nutritional needs at their various stages of production.

“Because feed costs for Continue reading

Lamb Prices Remain Elevated

Livestock Monitor- A Newsletter for Extension Staff
Livestock Marketing Information Center – State Extension Services in Cooperation with the USDA
(Previously published online: April 8, 2022)

(Image Source: Livestock Marketing Information Center)

The Easter holiday season is approaching, and this year the holiday falls a little later, on April 17th. This year has seen a slower pace to lamb slaughter leading up to the holiday compared to past years. Through the first quarter this year, weekly lamb slaughter has averaged about 30,000 head per week which is down 24% from the prior year. Typically, in the weeks leading up to Easter, lamb slaughter will climb. In 2022, a similar increase has started with the last week of March increasing more than 4,800 head (15%) from the prior week to over 36,100 head indicating producers are marketing lambs for Easter. Estimated (sheep and lamb) slaughter for the first two weeks of April was reported at 36,000 head, below the last week of March.

Consumers will be facing much higher lamb prices for Easter this year. The lamb cutout value has averaged over Continue reading

United States is Open to Canadian Sheep and Goats

United States Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
(Previously published online: April 4, 2022)

As of this week, live-breeding sheep and goats are eligible for import into the United States from Canada.

Importers must provide supporting documentation showing the scrapie-free status of the Canadian flock of origin at the time an import permit application is submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Importers must also contact the United States port of entry at least 10 business days before the intended date of arrival. Post-entry requirements about traceback of imported animals and recordkeeping will apply.

Post-entry Requirements for Imported Live Breeding Sheep and Goats from Canada

The following provides additional details pertaining to the post-entry requirements for imported live breeding sheep and goats (for purposes other than immediate slaughter or restricted feeding for slaughter) as outlined in 9 CFR 93 and 9 CFR 98. Continue reading

Sheep Pelts: Asset or Liability?

Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

It Depends.

Loss of Export Market
According to the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), “there is currently no market for American sheep skins. The highest quality, unshorn premium pelts have lost 95% of their value since March.” Currently (as of 11/08/2019), sheepskin pelts have a negative value. Producers have to pay the processor to get rid of them [10].

In past years, it was common for the US to export more than 1 million pelt pieces worth an estimated $15 million. Over 80% of the pelts went to China. China was the biggest importer of sheep and lamb hides, receiving 74% of all skins exported worldwide in 2015 [9]. Turkey, Russia, and Italy import smaller numbers of pelts. Continue reading

Precision Flock Management

For those that are interested in moving your operation forward in terms of facilities, management, record keeping, and anything between – this presentation by Canadian sheep producer Patrick Smith is well worth the listen. In his presentation Patrick provides an inside review of his operation including the practices that work and those that he’d like to change. Near the end of his presentation, Patrick also discusses facility design which may be of most interest to those looking to expand. Enjoy the talk and please reach out if you would like to discuss details on your next improvement project within your own operation!

Ohio Small Ruminant Industry Report – Fall 2021

Dr. Brady Campbell, Assistant Professor, State Small Ruminant Extension Specialist

I wrote this article in September 2021 for the Mid-Ohio Shepherds Grazing Conference and now that the conference resource guide has been published, I wanted to share this updated version which also includes a recent report on lamb consumption from the American Lamb Board below. Enjoy!

For those that follow the sheep and goat industry closely, I am sure that you have noticed that prices are better more than ever. For those that haven’t followed the recent market trends, I encourage you to do so – it may spark your interest in raising sheep or goats! As I write this in mid-September, the American Sheep Industry (ASI) reports that lambs, regardless of weight, are valued at 40% – 80% more than when compared with prices from the fall of 2020. For lambs weighing 60-90 lbs. live, the nation is seeing an average price of $2.69/lb., with slaughter weight lambs (100-140 lbs.) being valued at $2.47/lb. As we move into the fall and winter months, I only foresee these price trends to increase, which has held true!

According to the latest USDA NASS report released in Continue reading