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Trending Headlines: Local meat movement grows in pandemic

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Recent headlines highlight increased consumer demand for stockpiling locally raised beef. However, challenges remain for producers and processors alike.

A few weeks ago, I asked BEEF Daily readers for their success stories this past year in selling beef locally and connecting with consumers during this pandemic.

COVID-19 has brought on a unique set of challenges that we continue to grapple with. One of those challenges has been the occasional meat shortage many folks have seen when grocery shopping. This has prompted many to begin looking at ways to buy beef in bulk and stockpile their freezers.

While selling beef directly isn’t a solution for everybody, it’s been exciting to see so many producers earning a premium price for their products while making personal connections with their customers.

Of course, there are many hurdles that make selling beef directly difficult, and each state’s laws are unique in how meat can be inspected, labeled and sold. However, the ongoing theme that I continued to hear over and over again was the shortage of labor and burnout of employees at small processing facilities that are now booking out a year or more in advance due to the increased demand.

Nevertheless, it’s been exciting and inspiring to see producers embrace these new opportunities. Today I will highlight a few success stories showcasing how cattlemen and women are making it work during this unprecedented time in our history.

1. Meatocracy — the new app that connects producers to consumers

The goal of this app, according to its creators, is to help local producers sell their meat online directly to consumers in a hassle-free way.

2. “More Oklahomans buying beef farm-to-table style” by Ashley Ellis Oklahoma City Fox

Ellis writes, “The on-demand food supply system we have in the U.S. where you can just, up until this year, you could get anything you wanted at any time. Suddenly, that disappeared for a while and people became aware,” said Jake Nelson, a meat processing specialist with Oklahoma State University.

3. “Bill to aid meat processing gain momentum” by The Desert Review

According to the article, “There has been renewed interest in the PRIME Act, or the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act, which she said has been introduced "many times" through the years. The bill would amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act to allow sale of meat processed by custom-slaughter facilities, which are exempt from federal inspection. Currently, people can process their own meat in these facilities but cannot sell or donate it for public consumption.”

4. “PSU Extension Butcher School fills gap in workforce training” by Farm and Dairy

Here’s an excerpt, “It’s hard to find good help, especially if you run a butcher shop. Labor shortages are one of the main issues butchers run into when trying to expand or even just run their businesses.

“It’s the sort of job you can learn as you go, but it takes time. That’s a luxury many employers don’t have when they’re trying to meet high demand. They need skilled and experienced workers who can step into the shop without needing to learn the basics. That’s why the Penn State Extension Butcher School was launched this year.”

5. “Governor wants to boost South Dakota meats industry” by KELO

According to KELO, “The governor seeks to tap $5 million of a one-time surplus that state government is predicted to see, in part from an unexpected bump in sales tax revenue driven by billions in COVID-19 relief flowing from Congress into South Dakota’s economy and state and local governments.”

6. “Beef market still feeling the effects of COVID-19” by Madelyn Beck for MarketPlace

Beck writes, “When COVID-19 infected workers and slowed major packing plants, some ranchers turned to the smaller butchering facilities. And now those are backed up, as well.

“It’s even hard for hunters to find places to process deer. And more and more ranchers have been turning to direct-to-consumer sales and using those local butchers, too.”

This past year, I’ve had the chance to visit with dozens of cattle producers who have found new marketing opportunities for their products during these tumultuous times. It’s an excellent example of ways we can innovate, pivot, connect and serve with members of our communities while taking more control of the prices of our beef cattle.

Our family has retained ownership on a group of our feeder calves this year with the intent of doing exactly that. While we have primarily focused on our seedstock bull and heifer sales, this marks a new adventure for us in marketing our South Dakota born-and-raised beef, beyond the limited number of animals we have sold in years past to friends and family.

With that in mind, I welcome any and all advice for navigating the regulatory obstacles, labeling requirements and marketing challenges that may arise in this new venture. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for your help!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

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