Strengthening Links Between Meat Producers, Processors, and Consumers
The objectives of this project are to:
1) Determine mutual needs of producers and processors in the direct marketing and processing of livestock;
2) Develop information materials for consumers on the purchase and processing of local direct-marketed meats; and
3) Provide consumer outreach through semi-annual classes on preparation of local meats.
More and more consumers crave the kind of naturally tasty meat that comes directly from the farm. At the same time, though, few people know the livestock producers in their area, let alone how to go about purchasing an animal and having it processed. In an area like northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, producers have relatively little access to USDA-inspected plants and are required to sell animals live for custom processing. How can we bridge this gap?
We are putting together a directory of local livestock producers and processors for consumers interested in connecting with a local meat supply. Accompanying the directory are informational materials to help consumers understand how to go about buying an animal or part of it, how to have it processed, figuring weight, pricing and storage space, and other details unfamiliar to many supermarket shoppers.
Producers and processors were surveyed for information to include in the directory and for suggestions on information that consumers need and often do not have. Surveys were sent to producers, processors and University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin Extension offices in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. The directory and accompanying informational materials were piloted in fall of 1999, to be revised as needed in 2000. The majority of the survey respondents’ suggestions on informational materials stressed the need to inform consumers about the waste between hanging weight and product weight.
Consumer outreach efforts have promoted the directories and informational materials during their development in this first year of the project. Among these efforts, cooking classes presented through community education have focused on using lean meat. Livestock in this region are raised primarily on pasture, and many producers emphasize the need to cook this meat more slowly and at lower temperatures than most consumers are accustomed to. The project’s informational materials have been tested during these cooking classes. Class participants have been most responsive to time-saving ideas – one barrier to using lean meat can be the extra time needed for tenderizing and marinating. Suggestions for ready-made marinades and meat storage information have helped reduce this barrier to using locally produced meat.
The project is also focusing on outreach to recent immigrant groups in the Duluth, Minnesota, area. Each fall, a group of about 20 English as a Second Language students visits an area livestock operation, a very enjoyable experience for the many students among them who come from agricultural backgrounds. The field trips have generated livestock sales and valuable consumer/producer/processor connections, as people from ethnic groups with specific animal processing practices have sought out operations that can meet their needs. Information to help recent immigrants understand the purchase and processing of livestock in this region is among the project’s materials.