Berkshire Value Added Meat Product Marketing Coalition

Final report for FNC16-1051

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $22,157.00
Projected End Date: 10/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Of The Earth Farm
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
James Pierce
Of The Earth Farm Distillery, LLC
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Project Information

Summary:

Website: www.facebook.com/Berkshirecharcuterie/

 

2016 WORK ACTIVITIES

The grant funds together with an engagement letter officially started the restaurant and processor to begin working on their respective parts. Two farmers received 1/3 of their personnel costs to plan and be prepared to provide an animal in 2016 if we were able to condense the timeline for developing a Hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) plan and recipes. With regard to the processor, he was paid a little over a third to begin researching and writing the ground meat HACCP. The restaurant received almost two thirds to start recipe development and develop their HACCP.

The first step was to review the project timeline and roles with everyone involved by meeting with all participants individually.  Individual meetings have continued with everyone keeping everyone informed of progress. The purpose of meeting and continuing the discussions was to develop more details, review the timeline and make clear the expectations for them. The next step was developing a letter of engagement reiterating expectations and communicating some flexibility for solving potential problems. After starting the project, the restaurant underwent several personnel changes and two of the key people left. This set us back a little. The new meat person has had to educate herself about charcuterie and the remaining and sole partner, replacing the initial partner, took this project on top of his responsibilities as owner. Which means it is lower in priority for him than the partner who left.

The restaurant recipe trials were initially a fat, ground pork and whole muscle product. We dropped the ground products as HACCP research and first test batches indicated these types of products — because of increased risk — should follow a strict protocol, which the restaurant cannot adhere to, to date. The whole muscle products have been used in menu items and anecdotal customer feedback indicated sweet coppa and Lonza with fennel were the best received.

At the same time, the processor began researching ground product HACCP. They wrote and submitted a HACCP plan to Dr. Boyle for review. We are still collecting supporting documentation. We began looking for information on consumption and consumer preferred flavors in industry publications. Dr. Boyle offered her fall meat safety class the project of writing a whole muscle HACCP for the processor for this project. Recipes from the restaurant development were given to the processing plant. We are still waiting for a final approved HACCP plan to begin producing at the plant. The recipes were;

  1. Lonza with fennel
  2. Sweet coppa

 

2016 RESULTS AND WHAT WAS LEARNED SO FAR

  1. Recipe development; Products were made into charcuterie boards, panini sandwiches and sold in a meat case — allowable for restaurants selling direct to consumer. For the whole muscle product, two flavors have emerged from sampling items through the menu at the restaurant. Popularity measurements were by repeat sales. The winning flavors were the toasted fennel seed Lonza and the sweet spiced coppa.What we learned:
    • the restaurant and the processor were overly optimistic about what they could do and how fast they could get it done. We did narrow the work to date down to two recipes to make and test the HACCP.
    • Initially lardo was to be a potential product but the lack of consumer interest convinced us to drop it.
    • Ground muscle has increased risk and we decided our collective knowledge and the facilities were not conducive to moving forward with this.
  2. We have one nearly finished HACCP plan for the two products developed so far.
    1. The restaurant realized, after working several months on a plan and getting review from Dr. Boyle, that they did not have the expertise or resources to pursue production for resale on site. Secondly, the partner who signed on and did have the knowledge left the business and project.
  3. Labels for the farms; we just finished two farm labels. We have one more to finish.

 

WORK PLAN FOR 2017

February

  • complete the whole muscle HACCP
  • continue to work on ground muscle/sopressata HACCP/recipe (this will be worked into the work plan depending on timing)

March through May-

  • Begin production of our first test products based on the whole muscle plan, 2-4 each of Lonza and Coppa. If test batches are successful, (takes about 30 days) submit samples for validation, nutritional content.
    • Once validation occurs then we will schedule two of the farmer hogs and produce product for the market season.
  • Finish last farm label.
  • Determine cost to produce
  • Survey retail prices for pricing recommendation to producer
  • Develop survey for producer to gather customer feedback, goal of 100

May-

  • Distribute products, cost and pricing information to three farms: Of The Earth Farm (OTE), Happy Farm/Gone Natural (HFGN), and Pastvina Acres Farm (PAF) for testing their current markets.

June through September (or until product is depleted)

  • Record sales to each outlet
  • Collect survey responses
  • Conduct taste testing to coincide with sales on farms, at farmers markets, restaurant, and retail shops.

Late fall 2017

  • Write article for publications, present information to Fresh Farm HQ, Niche Meat Processors Alliance Network.

May 2016 through February 2018

  • Collect costs and sales data for evaluating the contribution of profitability.

 

2016 OUTREACH

There have been no articles yet. The project and the potential for small producers has been shared one on one with four smaller scale meat producers, two of which are excited at having a local processor with the ability to provide this service for their businesses.

Two farmers have begun promoting the upcoming products and project through their web pages/facebook

February

  • Share information with meat vendors at two markets

December

  • Write article for SF Journal. The same article will be submitted to LUCE (Lincoln University Cooperative Extension) and NMPAN (Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network).

 

2017 WORK ACTIVITIES

We began 2017 with the restaurant and the processor working on individual HACCP’s. This proved to be a hurdle for the project to move forward. With no projected approval of the USDA reviewed HACCP we could not go forward with test batches, the next step. A second issue was the parties at the restaurant with the relevant skills left the restaurant position. The restaurant could not provide HACCP or product for testing on site. Lastly, non-heat treated shelf stable meat products are relatively new on the USDA’s purview. This means they are hesitant and slow to move through this type of HACCP. It has taken over a year to receive a reviewed HACCP in late December, 2017. With this in hand, the processor has produced two test batches of two ground products to date. The grant funds were used to pay the USDA processor for work on HACCP and researching non-heat treated shelf stable meat product recipes and processes.

 

2017 RESULTS AND WHAT WAS LEARNED SO FAR

As the project lead, 1) I greatly underestimated the time that would need to be invested in pushing a HACCP through for USDA review leading to setbacks on the next steps. In hindsight, a better approach would be to break this project into smaller projects leading to the final goal of a USDA approved charcuterie product for small producers. 2) The enthusiasm of participants led to overstating their skills and understanding of what would be required to accomplish the HACCP.

 

WORK PLAN FOR 2018

February through May

  • Produce 3 test batches successfully in a row of finochiona and sopressata
    • Once validation testing confirms successful control of the five major organisms then we will schedule two of the farmer hogs and produce product for the market season.
  • Determine cost to produce
  • Survey retail prices for pricing recommendation to producer
  • Develop survey for producer to gather customer feedback, goal of 100

May-

  • Distribute initial test products, cost and pricing information to three farms: Of The Earth Farm (OTE), Happy Farm/Gone Natural (HFGN), and Pastvina Acres Farm (PAF) for testing their current markets.

June through September (or until product is depleted)

  • Record sales to each outlet
  • Collect survey responses
  • Conduct taste testing to coincide with sales on farms, at farmers markets, restaurant, and retail shops.

Late fall 2018

  • Write article for publications, present information to Fresh Farm HQ, Niche Meat Processors Alliance Network.
  • Collect costs and sales data for evaluating the contribution of profitability.

 

2017 OUTREACH

To date the information, progress and our grant experience has been shared with other farmers and potentially new farmers through on farm visits.

Project Objectives:

Environmental benefits:
1. Pastured hogs reduce runoff compared to bare lots or confinement, they spread manure by design — feeding the soil, and they produce lower volumes of offensive odors. Profits function as an incentive to pasture raise hogs. Increasing profits by adding value provides the small hog producer the incentive to enter pasture production or continue to raise pasture hogs. Increasing demand for small farm hogs by serving a growing market for charcuterie sends the message to the producers to continue to raise hogs sustainably. Adding value to pork meat increases the value of an individual animal without increasing pressure on limited resources.
2. Environmental impact will be measured by collecting and comparing:
a. a survey of producers’ production methods, including stocking rates, hogs produced, feedstuffs, and gross income per hog at the beginning of project
b. an exit survey of production practices, stocking rates, hogs produced, feedstuffs, gross income per hog and observations of pastured hogs at the end of project to determine what changes occurred as a result of developing a new market and what future plans are being considered.

Economic benefits:
1. Adding value to raw cuts of pork by developing new specialty and niche products for the SSHF increases the farm income. And, it will increase demand for pork raised in small herds on pasture as the raw material for these value added products.
2. We will collectively share production cost using a template to:
a. Determine the cost to produce the value added product to the processor. This will be done by asking for what price the processor would charge for this service after the project.
b. Gather sales data to determine retail sales locations, quantities and prices from participants selling value added product.
c. Evaluate income or loss over cost to produce value added product using processor charges.
d. Include in the exit producer survey questions to find out beginning production and future plans for expanding production.
3. We will also record requests for more information by other small farmers or interested parties during the project. This information will include name and contact information for follow up in the next stage of development.

Social benefits:
1. Coming together as individual farms, with different goals for our farms, strengthens our farming and business relationships in a positive way. Each farm can control its own production and marketing while working together to benefit us all. This is a small step in collaborating while maintaining farm identity, to leverage our skills to increase each farm’s income.
2. Sales of locally produced pork and value added products returns the consumer dollar to the local economy rather than exporting it out of the county, state, or country. The ripple effect strengthens local economy, providing an avenue for small pork producers to increase income.
3. Strengthens producer/consumer relationship by providing a local option to consumers.
4. We will measure by the volume of sales. And by asking the producers at the end of the project if they feel a stronger connection to other small farmers and the local consumer.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Anna, Jim Boatman
  • David Borrowman

Research

Materials and methods:

1. May 2016-Inventory producer stock and develop an estimate of potential harvest dates
2. May/June/July 2016-Develop 3-6 product recipes
3. July/August 2016-
a. Produce 1 test batch of 3-6 recipes at The Sundry (restaurant).
b. Carry out a consumer preference with test products at restaurant and narrow down to the 3 best received based on oral survey.

Our thought was to rely on trained and skilled personnel from the food industry to develop quality, flavorful traditional meat products. 

4. August/September 2016-chefs, processor and KU Meat Lab to develop and write HACCP for processing plant to produce product(s) for resale.

The goal was to have a pathway for small pork producers to have their hogs processed into higher value pork products which is why the K-State Meat Lab and processor were involved in developing a HACCP. 

5. August/September 2016-Processor to produce label that can be used to highlight each farm for each product and submit for label approval to Missouri Meat and Poultry Inspection Program.

We want to be able to promote each farm and their farming practices and having the ability to do so under the farm label.

6. November 2016-Produce first batches under inspection of product for each farm for resale
a. Carry out validation tests for HACCP
b. Determine cost to produce
c. Survey retail prices for pricing recommendation to producer
d. Develop survey for producer to gather customer feedback, goal of 100

7. December 2016 through December 2017-Distribute products, cost and pricing information to three farms (OTE, NFGN, and PA) for testing their current markets.
a. Record sales to each outlet
b. Collect survey responses
8. March 2017 through December 2017-Conduct taste testing to coincide with sales on farms, at farmers markets,
restaurant, and retail shops.

These steps would allow each farm to figure their cost of production for value added product. Then, decide whether it was something they should pursue. These steps would give us insight to the consumers reception to our products and help us begin to work on the product presentation. it would help us moving forward to focus on the most desirable products and the most profitable for each farms market.

 

 

Research results and discussion:

This project used knowledge and skills of service providers to add value to small farm hogs. The thought was the providers would bring experience and their facilities would be used to develop a USDA approved route for adding value to pork for small farms. 

The recipe development and process was accomplished with experienced kitchen staff and the use of several Charcuterie books for reference.

The USDA reviewed HACCP for product for resale was the single biggest challenge. There were two causes. The processor went through a period of high turnover rate. This prevented assigning the task of writing the HACCP, and the plant is small scale limiting how much time the owner had to educate himself and work on it. The second challenge was the USDA review process. The first level reviewer seemed reluctant to move very fast at all on the submission. As a result it required investing time from the PI to understanding the regulation to assist in conversations with the reviewer. At the time of review there was, and is, some concern about traditional made meat products in the USDA. The slow review process and hesitation with non heat treated shelf stable meat products added considerable time to the length of this project and were out of our control. 

This prevented reaching the remaining steps.

At the end of the project there were a total of 4 test batches produced of ground product. All batches received a validation test of negative for disease organisms. Although, without an approved HACCP none of the farmers could take product to their farmers markets. 

Participation Summary
1 Farmer participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

20 Consultations
1 On-farm demonstrations
2 Tours

Participation Summary

20 Farmers
1 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

The PI shared the project proposal and updates with fellow farmers market vendors, many small farmers and hog producers and other potential partners. The other partners consist of skilled makers and potential business partners in continuing to work on small farm charcuterie products. This happened at markets and during farm visits. This project will be shared in February 2019 at the NCR-SARE Farmers Forum in Nebraska.

Learning Outcomes

3 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:

The two most important things we’ve learned are:

  1. Farm participants were involved in proposal development and understood our project. And, the service providers were included in proposal development but did not fully understand the commitment level expected. I would spend more time with them up front.
  2. Using a consultant would have been much more economical in time and money than starting with service providers acquainted with the process of HACCP and USDA review process. This would have helped avoid the length of time and get a product to the shelf sooner.

 

The conversation that occurred between farmers and potential customers continues to support the notion there is a market for artisanal niche meat products. This grant allowed us to leverage our resources and make larger gains on moving closer to having premium value added farm products for sale.  The group is developing steps to move forward, continuing to pursue developing charcuterie products. Without leveraged funds our progress would have been much smaller. This is one of several advantages of using a program like SARE Farmer/Rancher to explore product and marketing ideas, extending our small farms capital in search of increasing income, scaling up and competing. The grant allows the individual and regional farms to get farther in pursuing sustainable ideas. 

 

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
4 New working collaborations
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.