What You Need to Know About Local Beef Processing


Moderated by: Ryan Cox, Extension Meat Specialist at the University of Minnesota Speakers: Laura Field, Legislative Coordinator for Nebraska Department of Agriculture and Preston Correll, Marksbury Farm, Kentucky. More about Marksbury farm here.

“I’ve got a market, I’ve got the cattle, let’s get this going”… Ask yourself these two questions 1. Is there a true market for your product? And 2. Is there a steady supply year-round?
For Preston Correll the bigger question aside from financing, supply and market demand was “can I spend enough time doing this? Can I keep my day job?” Starting out from ground zero “99 out of 100 times you will fail if you are expecting this new venture to pay your salary, pay for the farm, pay for your mortgage, I don’t care what your performance says it’s not going to work out that way.” Starting small and growing into your customer base can be very rewarding. Another key point, you must have excellent accounting. “I caution people who want to start from scratch and go get a big bank loan to do business.”

Success rates of people reaching out wanting to process vs. those who actually go through with it.
Laura Field describes Nebraska situation as “unique in the landscape of processing facilities as we have many large packers and a lot of smaller lockers that are certified USDA inspected and again just as many small lockers that are exempt. We do not have a State inspection program in Nebraska.” Even with a State Inspection program in place getting a facility up and running is and will be a rigorous process.

Promoting Product – how to?
You must have something to hang your hat on. It does not matter what type of product you have you must find your niche market, develop your label plus hold the necessary inventory for business. Starting out for Marksbury farms they had to have 15 weeks of sales in inventory per market. Understand the labels and what your product must be to label them as a specialty. Remember that “there is value in the brand.”

Seasonality of Supply
From a processing perspective the reality is that the business is dominated by weekly schedules. The shelf life of meat having a weekly delivery window is appropriate. From the marketing side seasonality isn’t necessary a big deal when you are very small, 20 head a year, if you are organized and have your processing spots set up in advance allowing you to sell when the time is good. When you grow larger seasonality is something that can be tough to manage. Having enough head to process every week you need to take inventory into account, and you may not always need that inventory when the next animal is ready to go.

Co-packing for a processor helps as added value to your processing plant especially if you personally do not have enough inventory to keep the plants doors open during the week. Preston suggests finding some way for the processor to get their customers vested in the success of the facility ensuring that they will continue to come and do business.

How do to distribute your product?
Know and research your state and/or federal processing as well as retail regulations and exemptions.

Where do you start?
Look at numerous other plants. How are they laid out, what do you like what don’t you like. Gain knowledge and the structure and equipment before you build and buy. If you are not knowledgeable in meat processing find someone that is that can help and advise.

Watch or listen below for more information on pricing your product, prerequisites, Nebraska Beef in Schools Program and more!

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