Promoting the development of economically and ecologically sustainable pasture-fed beef markets

2006 Annual Report for LS06-191

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $198,652.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Denise Mainville
Department of Agricultural & Applied Economics

Promoting the development of economically and ecologically sustainable pasture-fed beef markets


The PFB research project is well underway, with significant progress being made on four out of five project objectives. This progress is largely consistent with the anticipated project time line. A survey of pasture-fed beef producers in Virginia is nearly complete, case study data collection of farm finances is underway and should be completed this summer, as should the analysis of farm survey data and retail surveys. The taste test and willingness to pay experiments are currently being designed and will be implemented this summer.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Objective 1: Identify and describe economic/financial properties of alternative PFB systems using different levels of off-farm resources, and how their product is valued by consumers.

This objective is planned in three distinct steps—first, a characterization of PFB producers in Virginia through a farm survey; second a comparative analysis of on-farm costs of PFB systems using different ratios of grass/grain feed regimes; third an analysis of consumer preferences for beef produced under different regimes. The first step of the project, the farmer survey, is largely on schedule—in 2006 we identified producers; designed, tested and revised the farmer survey; and began data collection, with each activity being consistent with the schedule. Due to overlap in concepts and production systems, the scope of the survey was broadened to include producers of pasture-fed, “natural,” organic, and direct-marketed beef. The survey data collection is currently wrapping up with approximately 75 completed responses. The second step of the project, analysis of on-farm costs, is ahead of schedule—it was anticipated that this phase would begin in June 2007, however we took advantage of an opportunity to collect data on one of the four case study farms in August 2006 and have conducted a preliminary analysis of data from this farm. It is anticipated that progress towards this objective will proceed on schedule.

Objective 2: Map the structure of the PFB marketing channels currently in use, and identify constraints and inefficiencies that currently constrain the market or will likely impede its expansion.

The original timeline to achieve this project objective was altered to take into account that the farm survey would be an important contributor to results. The pursuit of this objective has turned out to be less reliant on formal survey techniques (apart from the producer survey), as suggested in the original timeline, and more on informal methods involving meetings and interaction with producers, extension personnel and others who are involved in the market. The farm survey which is being used for Objective 1 include questions on processing, logistics, and marketing, so is providing key information on the marketing chain constraints. A draft report of results for this objective is anticipated for June 2007.

Objective 3: Analyze the potential for diverse retail and food service outlets to participate in PFB markets, and requirements for sales through these markets;

The retail survey has been designed and pre-tested. Interviews with retail actors are underway. It is anticipated that this activity will conclude in summer 2007, which is behind the project schedule, but that the final report will still be completed by April 2008 as projected.

Objective 4: Analyze preferences and demand for PFB among growing Latin American, Asian, and European populations.

This objective is the subject of a doctoral dissertation, whose development has been taking place over a longer time frame than was originally projected. It is anticipated that taste tests will be conducted during the summer of 2007.

Objective 5: Extend results of research through educational programs to producers and dissemination of research results through extension, industry and professional outlets.

No activities for this objective were planned for 2006. Nevertheless, the farm survey is being used as an opportunity to ask producers about specific educational needs, and an educational program is being planned for February 2008 which is ahead of the projected schedule.


  1. Data collection for one of four case studies analyzing finances for alternative pasture-fed beef systems.

    Data collection on beef producer survey nearly complete providing extensive information on farm management, marketing, and logistical aspects of pasture-fed beef production.

    Retail survey designed and pre-tested.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

  1. 1. Increased awareness in media and among producers of pasture-fed beef production and market opportunities—the survey and overall project has received media coverage, particularly within Virginia, resulting in producers calling to request more information and ask to participate in survey. Interest in project has been expressed from as far away as Australia.

    2. Preliminary survey results have been utilized by a group of Southwest Virginia producers in assessing whether it is appropriate for them to invest in a local beef processing facility.


Gordon Groover
Department of Agricultural & Applied Economics
Mail code 0401
Virgina Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Office Phone: 5402315850
Kenner Love
Extension Agent
Virginia Cooperative Extension
Office Phone: 5406753619
Corey Childs
Extension Agent
Virginia Cooperative Extension
Office Phone: 7037770373
Tom Stanley
Extension Agent
Virginia Cooperative Extension
Office Phone: 5402455750
Susan Duncan
Department of Food Science & Technology
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Office Phone: 5402318675