Local meat

austin_local_food_restaurants“Locally produced” is one of the hottest terms in the food business today, according to an article posted recently on CattleNetwork. 

I’ve discussed “local” before with expanding our definitions of local, food trends and even “big beef”. But I guess I’ve never really defined (on the blog) my own definition of “local”.

Local to Me:

Local to me might seem like more regional to some.

Local beef = cattle raised/harvested in the Midwest or a “beef state” such as Texas, Kansas or Nebraska. I prefer the corn-fed goodness.

Local fruits/vegetables = in the spring/summer, local is within the surrounding states that I live, but in the winter, local to me is California or Florida or a location that is more available to grow vegetables.

How important is local to me? In all honesty, what it really comes down to for me is price/quality. I don’t really care if it’s local or not, I’m more worried about freshness, safety and overall nutrition/taste. If pears that are grown in South America can get to my grocery store and are fresh and taste good – that is just as important as if they were produced locally. Thank you, global trade! If I have the option and the same type of pear is grown in the U.S. and is the same price and freshness, I would, however, choose the “local” U.S. option.

Back to local meat, as Maday mentioned in the CattleNetwork article, developing reliable supply and marketing chains can present a challenge, particularly for the smaller producers and processors typically involved in local-foods efforts. That’s especially true in the case of meat products according to a new report from USDA’s Economic Research Service. The report, titled “Local Meat and Poultry Processing: The Importance of Business Commitments for Long-Term Viability,” outlines some of the challenges and potential solutions for building viable local markets.

For producers to market their meat locally of course, they need a local processor. But for a local processor to remain economically viable, they need steady, year-around business rather than dramatic seasonal swings in demand for slaughter and processing services.

The authors describe three types of local-meat supply chains, each with their own regulatory and logistic challenges.

  • Very local – farmers sell live animal directly to one or more household buyers, who buy by the whole, half, or quarter carcass. A mobile slaughterer may come to the farm, or the farmer may deliver the animal to a processing facility. For red meat, the household buyers place the cutting orders, pay the processor directly, and pick up their meat, typically frozen.
  • Local-independent – The farmer arranges and pays for processing and handles distribution and marketing through a variety of direct and local channels.
  • Regional-aggregated – Multiple farmers sell finished animals to a central brand entity that arranges for processing and distribution and handles marketing, largely to wholesale accounts.

The case studies included in the report generally fall in the local-independent or regional-aggregated categories. Read more here.

Does this change your definition of local?

There really seems to be a difference in the definition for meat vs. veggies/fruit, doesn’t it? I believe so – but yet our consumers today combine the concept, especially when we’re talking about food safety and outright availability. It’s important to remind them about seasonal availability and the use of our technology today to grow the food we have.

One thought on “Local meat

  1. A project I was a part of this spring was a very similar definition of what local means and would consumers be willing to pay a bit more for it if they knew it was locally raised, processed, etc. (and do they really care?) for meat products. This was with Northwest Missouri State University's MORE Beef project. Pretty cool!

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