Comprehensive Training in Direct Marketing of Meat and Meat Products for Coopertative Extension Agents and Agricultural Professionals

Final Report for ES11-110

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2011: $90,573.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Scott Greiner
Virginia Tech
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Project Information

Abstract:

This Professional Development Program provided training to educators on direct marketing of meat and meat products. Needs assessment identified five key areas under which topics related to direct marketing of meat and meat products could be categorized: Regulatory and Policy, Animal Production & Management Systems, Conversion of Animal to Product, Supply Development and Marketing, and Business Models and Economics. The needs assessment acquired a list of “frequently asked questions” that are posed to educators related to the program topic, and additionally provided information on the specific training and resources needs of educators. Questions asked by farmers, and the training needs of educators were very similar. Key topics included understanding of laws and regulations, relationships between animal production practices and meat products, conversion of live animal to product (product yield and fabrication), and availability of processors to accommodate direct marketers of meat. Based on these needs, training sessions and resources were developed for educators. Trainings included face-to-face meetings, acquisition of existing resources, development of presentations which could be used by educators, development of new publications on the topic, and assembly of these resources in a central location of educators which can be updated and revised, and utilized in the future.

Project Objectives:

Objective 1: This objective will provide the framework to build customized educational training for Cooperative Extension agents and other key educators. Through formalized needs assessment, a logic model for the execution of Objectives 2 and 3 will be constructed.

Objective 2: Outcomes of Objective 1 will be used to develop and deliver a comprehensive training curriculum for Cooperative Extension agents and other key educators. The goal will be to provide educators with advanced knowledge and skills on the direct marketing of meat and meat products to extend to farmers.

Objective 3: The final objective of the project is to evaluate the effectiveness of the training model through measured changes in knowledge and behaviors of educators as well as their correlated impact on farmers.

 

Introduction:

The value of agricultural products sold directly to consumers in Virginia increased from $16.8 in 2002 to $28.8 million in 2007. Correspondingly, the number of farms involved in direct marketing increased to 2,855 in 2007, up from 2,513 farms in 2002 (USDA-NASS, Census of Agriculture, 2007). Consistent with national and southern region trends, Virginia has experienced rapid growth in farmer’s markets to meet the consumer demand for locally-produced food, including meat products. Currently, there are over 160 farmer’s markets in Virginia, nearly double the number which existed in 2005 (Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 2010). Similar growth has been experienced for on-farm sales, direct sales to restaurants, and other venues which satisfy consumer demand for locally-produced products.

Previously SSARE-sponsored research has shown that Virginia farmers identify “lack of knowledge” as a primary constraint to direct marketing of meat (Mainville et al., 2007), which may be viewed as a first hurdle to small farm adoption of direct marketing practices and provides a basis for educational programming. Similarly, needs assessment surveys of Virginia Cooperative Extension agents quantify a strong desire and interest among educators for resources and advanced training on aspects of direct marketing of meat and meat products (Riddell et al., 2009). This project proposal addresses these related needs, and provides a curriculum with parallels the system obstacles farmers will face as they explore opportunities and implement practices for direct marketing of meat and meat products.

A number of resources have been developed for direct marketing of meat, including resources associated with several SSARE projects in recent years. The publications and research findings will be utilized in this project. The unique aspect of this project is that educators and farmers will determine the educational resource needs, and a corresponding curriculum will be developed for a comprehensive training program which encompasses direct marketing from farm to fork. New resources will be developed as needed to compliment those which currently exist, and the curriculum will be packaged and delivered utilizing a systems approach. The resulting resources will be made available through electronic formats, so that they may be utilized by others throughout the region and beyond, thereby sustaining the impact and outcomes of the project in the future.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Barry Jones
  • Dr. Mark McCann
  • Spencer Neale
  • Alex White

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Virginia Cooperative Extension faculty from Virginia Tech in collaboration with partners from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (Office of Meat and Poultry Services and Direct Marketing Services) provided the expertise for the accomplishment of the project objectives.

 

Objective 1: This objective provided the framework for the design of educational training for Virginia Cooperative Extension agents and other key educators. A formalized needs assessment was conducted to guide Objectives 2 and 3. Phone surveys were conducted with agents in key locations to assess their educational needs, and the needs of their farmers. Furthermore, results from system-wide Virginia Cooperative Extension annual situation analysis were also utilized in the needs assessment. This situation analysis is conducted in every county in the state, and obtains input from local Extension clientele and stakeholders. Finally, two specific focus groups were utilized to assess educational needs for the project. During these focus group meetings (held in two locations, involving 30 educators), participants were asked to prioritize specific topic areas most relevant for enhancing their professional development (training, resource development, and/or materials) as they relate to topic of assisting producers and others with interest in direct marketing meat/meat products. During the same focus groups, educators also described “frequently asked questions” from clientele as they relate to the topic. This structured needs assessment provided objective feedback on direct marketing educational and resource needs for all components of the system. Challenges and barriers to successful implementation of direct marketing by farmers were also described.

 

Objective 2: Outcomes of the needs assessment from Objective 1 were used to develop and deliver a training curriculum for Virginia Cooperative Extension agents, VDACS personnel, and others. The goal was to provide educators with advanced knowledge and skills on the direct marketing of meat and meat products to extend to farmers. This objective was accomplished through a variety of mechanisms including creation and assembly of educational support materials (publications, presentations, web resources), along with hosting of “train the trainer” sessions for delivery of materials to educators. During the educational process, case studies and specific on-farm experiences were used as examples.

 

The training component was segmented into different components:

 

1: Animal production and management systems for direct marketing of beef, sheep, swine, and goats (including pasture raised, organic, natural). Specific focus will be on unique practices relevant to direct marketing and those factors which impact the entire system such as product supply, quality, safety, and quantity.

 

2: Harvest, processing, and product offering for direct marketed meat products. Specific

regulatory and inspection requirements, processing of live animal into food products, and logistics

associated with animal processing.

 

3: Supply development and marketing considerations for direct marketed meat products,

identifying potential markets and market entry requirements.

 

 

Educational training sessions were delivered to the target audience through face-to-face training sessions. New resources were developed by project collaborators, and coupled with existing available resources for the trainings, and these materials provided to the trainees as take-home materials. Educational materials will also be developed into a web site to serve as a resource for direct marketers, educators, and the public to extend the impact of the project.

 

Objective 3: The final objective of the project is to evaluate the effectiveness of the training model through measured changes in knowledge and behaviors of educators as well as their correlated impact on farmers. Post training evaluations of participants will be conducted to quantify changes in comprehension, attitudes, and interest among educators related to direct marketing facets addressed through the trainings.

 

Outcomes and impacts:

Objective 1: Key results of the needs assessment were as follows:

The following five major topic areas related to direct marketing of meat and meat products were identified:

  1. Regulatory and Policy
  2. Animal Production & Management Systems
  3. Conversion of Animal to Product
  4. Supply Development and Marketing
  5. Business Models and Economics

 

Results from the needs assessment when educators were asked to identify “frequently asked questions” from clientele related to direct marketing of meat and meat products:

  1. Regulatory and Policy
    1. Laws and regulations pertaining to direct marketing meat (various outlets)
    2. Label definitions and protocols
    3. Production practice or product certification standards and regulations
    4. Tax laws and requirements

  2. Animal Production & Management Systems
    1. Benefits and challenges of various production methods
    2. Impact of genetics and diet on product
    3. Production certification options
    4. Basic land, labor, management requirements for production
    5. Wholesale to retail conversion
    6. Providing product on year-round basis

  3. Conversion of Animal to Product
    1. Availability of processors
    2. Best management practices and protocol for harvest
    3. Packaging methods
    4. Factors affecting meat quality
    5. Cutting tests and product yield expectations
    6. Identity preservation during processing
    7. Further processing options

  4. Supply Development and Marketing
    1. Defining the market, market opportunities
    2. Marketing options
    3. Advertising strategies
    4. Pricing the product
    5. Consumer preferences, measuring demand

  5. Business Models and Economics
    1. Enterprise budgets
    2. Sustainability of direct marketing enterprise
    3. Methods to lower input costs
    4. Market entry and expansion opportunities
    5. Pricing options
    6. Liability issues

 

Results from the needs assessment when educators were asked to identify their professional development needs (training and resources) related to direct marketing of meat and meat products:

  1. Regulatory and Policy
    1. Fact sheets for laws and regulations pertaining to direct marketing meat
    2. Regulatory decision matrix based on goals/interests
    3. Fact sheet on label definitions regulations

  2. Animal Production & Management Systems
    1. Impact of genetics and diet on product
    2. Protocols for animal production certification
    3. Best management protocols for grass finishing

  3. Conversion of Animal to Product
    1. Processing workshops
    2. Publication/listing of processors
    3. Consumer guide on meat cuts and proper handling
    4. Resources describing factors affecting meat quality (pre- and post-harvest)
    5. Resources for cutting tests and product yield expectations

  4. Supply Development and Marketing
    1. Publication defining pertinent terminology (organic, grass-fed, etc.)
    2. Resources to define the market, market opportunities
    3. Consumer preferences, measuring demand
    4. Training on utilizing Market Maker

  5. Business Models and Economics
    1. Enterprise budgets for direct meat marketers
    2. Budget comparison tools for production options
    3. Tools for establishing pricing structure
    4. Resources for establishing input costs and product pricing

 

Objective 2: Based on the needs assessment, training sessions were held for educators using face-to-face meetings. These meetings were led by faculty from Virginia Tech, and also included experts from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The focus of the educational training sessions was to empower educators with information so that they can be of assistance to farmers interested in direct marketing of livestock. The trainings component have focused on modules pertaining to animals production, regulatory issues, and marketing issues. In addition to the face-to-face training, supplemental resources were secured from existing sources and provided to educators. Examples of these resources included the Meat Evaluation Handbook (American Meat Science Association), retail cut charts, and the Pork Composition and Quality Assessment Procedures Handbook (National Pork Board). Based on the need for improved communication between harvest facilities and animal producers, and access to a listing of harvest facilities and their offerings, an educational video was developed through Virginia Cooperative Extension to demonstrate the steps a manager can take to register their meat processing facility on the Market Maker database https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hs1xNzPav4k.

 

Specific PowerPoint resources developed for educator use included:

“Live Animal to Product Conversion”- contains information on expecting cutting tests, product yields, factors impacting product quality attributes and yield, and definitions for product certification

“Animal Growth and Development: Implications on Product”- provides details on various production and management practices, animal genetics, nutrition, and other factors which impact meat product attributes

“Laws and Regulations Pertaining to Direct Marketing of Meat in Virginia”- provides comprehensive resource for laws and regulations for animal harvest, meat product sales, and labeling

“Working with Farmers Markets”- information on structure and policies of farmers’ markets in Virginia and implications for direct marketers of meats.

These resources are in the process of becoming formal Extension publications.

 

Additional resources include enterprise budgets for animal production, which are accessible through the VCE public website.

 

All resources have been organized on a website which is accessible to Extension educators. This website can be updated with new and current information, and also be shared with new educators which join the system.

 

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

  • Understanding of specific needs of educators relative to the production, processing and direct marketing of meat and meat products
  • Challenges to the educational process have been identified

  • Resource needs have been established, including form of such resources• Best management practices for direct marketing of meat products have been established• A more thorough understanding of factors impacting meat processing and products• Increased capacity of educators to assist farmers for direct marketing of meat products 
  • • Increased ability of educators to facilitate cooperation among parties involved in the system
  • • Understanding of marketing components integral to direct marketing of meat
  • Increased awareness and understanding among educators regarding regulatory issues
  • • A more thorough understanding and appreciation among educators for direct marketing systems has been developed

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

The long-term benefits of this project are multiple. The target audience (educators) work with a very diverse clientele on the topic of direct marketing of meat, ranging from producers selling a small number of freezer beef to local consumers, to those which derive a substantial portion of their farm income through this activity. Their motivation and interests are equally diverse, and consequently direct marketers of meat target many consumer demands which apply to animal production/management and the meat product itself (ie. conventional, grass-fed, organic, local, etc.). Despite this, there are many core issues which are common to these direct marketers. The most common need identified and addressed was an understanding of laws and regulations. Additionally, another key need identified and addressed was for additional knowledge among educators related to factors impacting meat product attributes, along with a better understanding of conversion of live animal to saleable product. Lastly, the common shortcoming and challenge which is consistently identified among educators and farmers is the lack of animal processing facilities in the state. Potentially, this project through enhanced exposure and understanding of the topic could lead to initiatives which may result in an increased capacity for animal harvest.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.