- Agronomic: sunflower, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Animals: bovine, poultry, goats, swine, sheep
- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: free-range, grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational, winter forage, feed/forage
- Education and Training: workshop
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, community-supported agriculture, marketing management
- Production Systems: holistic management
- Sustainable Communities: urban/rural integration, social capital
“Healthy Livestock Agriculture & Healthy People” was inspired by the expressed interest in local sources of pasture-raised foods by holistic health providers who use dietary changes as part of therapy. The project was designed to facilitate access to healthy, grass-finished livestock products and to increase awareness among holistic and conventional health providers about the connections between agriculture and health. The project’s key accomplishment was publishing and disseminating the Consumer Guide to Locally Produced Livestock Products, Central North Carolina. The Consumer Guide provides new information about how to purchase meat, eggs, and dairy foods from local small-scale farmers, facilitating consumers’ search for health-supporting foods in Central North Carolina. Despite limited distribution, the Consumer Guide generated enthusiasm and excitement, which indicates a very real need for this information and suggests a strong potential for future growth in the demand for the products of grass-farmers. Very strong sales growth figures from participating farmers suggest that wider collection and distribution of this information on behalf of natural healing, public health, family farms, and economic diversity is warranted. Market research is also needed to inform effective strategies for outreach and education about grass-farming and direct-to-consumer sales of meats, eggs and dairy foods.
We are grateful for this rewarding opportunity.
Consumers and health professionals are increasingly motivated to change food-purchasing habits. One emerging trend involves concerns about the quality, safety, and nutritional value of meat, eggs, and dairy foods produced in large-scale confinement operations. Specific health and safety concerns of consumers and health professionals about meat and dairy foods produced in confinement operations include: reduced nutrient density (chemical fertilizers allow feeds to be grown on de-mineralized soils); altered fat profiles (due to use of grain-based feeds); possible contamination with herbicides or pesticides; exposure to hormone growth promotants; antibiotic exposure; possible chemical alterations resulting from stressful living and slaughter conditions for animals; exposure to chemical additives (including nitrates and other preservatives); and greater risk of allergy due to the introduction of genetically modified feeds. Environmental and ethical issues created by industrial food production systems and the deterioration of small farm profitability and sustainability trouble consumers as well. Due to these concerns, demand for locally produced livestock products from consumers and health professionals is growing. This trend clearly presents market opportunities for local farmers.
Small-scale North Carolina livestock producers face economic difficulties when participating in industrially integrated livestock production. Profit margins are shrinking and farming often provides only a meager, supplemental income. Some farmers have found that low-input production methods, coupled with direct-to-consumer sales, results in more stable prices than the commodity market and improves small farm profitability. Thus, more and more small-scale livestock producers are interested in increasing direct sales to improve the profitability of their operations.
While some resourceful consumers and farmers have connected via local farmers’ markets or other informal channels, health-concerned consumers are generally unable to access local producers’ grass-finished meats, eggs, and dairy products. In 2003, Triangle-area holistic health providers requested information about local sources of grass-finished meat from the UNC Program on Integrative Medicine. In response to this need, this project developed new alliances to collect and compile information about local sources of grass-finished livestock products to create a new resource to guide central North Carolina consumers to local farmers. The resulting Consumer Guide to Locally Produced Livestock Products, Central North Carolina includes detailed farm information and educational content to facilitate health care providers’ knowledge of and access to local, pasture-raised livestock products.
The objectives of this project were: 1) to collect producer information and publish findings in a local food guide for a five-county region in central NC; 2) to develop and disseminate educational materials about sustainability, nutrition, and food safety as it relates to the consumption of locally produced eggs, meat, and dairy products; and 3) to develop new partnerships to outline further projects and outreach opportunities.