Am I making a profit? Using calculators to develop profitable prices for farm-raised meats

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2014: $13,452.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Ginger Myers
University of Maryland Extension

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bovine, goats, swine, sheep


  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, agricultural finance, market study, risk management, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    While the initial “Buy Local” surge began with the fruit and vegetable markets, farmers are now offering CSAs that include meat, dairy and eggs. Some are even doing CSAs that are exclusively animal-based foods Livestock producers must deal with three different equations to determine if they are indeed making money from their meat sales- (1) production and processing costs (2) carcass yields (3) pricing structure for differentiate cuts. Several on-line calculators exist for converting an animal carcass into cuts (yield in pounds). But, most still do not address how to differentiate pricing of those cuts or a way to view various mark-up scenarios. Matt LeRoux, Cornell Extension, has developed a calculator that calculates both total carcass costs and differentiated pricing of cuts based on a projected profit margin. It handles beef, pork, lamb, and goat calculations,
    The primary goals of this project are to: 1. Conduct on-farm testing of LeRoux’s calculator for ease of use, collecting regional production, processing costs, and pricing recommendations. Then make possible recommendations for any refinement to the tool. 2. Develop a case study with real-time costs numbers from livestock producers who direct market their products as cuts. Post tools and results on the University of Maryland Extension’s Ag Marketing website, 3. Cooperating farmers plug their results into the Marketing Channels Assessment Tool (LeRoux) to evaluate their most profitable market outlets. 4. Promote the use of cost and pricing calculators to help livestock producers set profitable prices and manage marketing risks.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project Methods: 1. Hold a training session with participating farmers to explain the use of the calculating tool and marketing strategies assessment tool. Hold this training where everyone can have a computer to practice with the tool before using it on their own farm. Each cooperating farmer will also complete an individual assessment of their current pricing and marketing structure and philosophies. 2. Project leader makes monthly contact with each cooperating farmer to collect data sheets and collate results. Farmer collecting data will see ‘real’ numbers and variation in weights and carcass yield they may not have been aware of without having to account for every cut from each animal. 3. Project leader will make at least one on-farm visit to each cooperating farmers to answer project questions and evaluate use of calculator tools. 4. Phone interview later in project with cooperating farmers to determine changes in knowledge about pricing based on their involvement in the project. 5. Write a case study about this project that focuses on (a) using the tools (b) factors that affect pricing farm-raised meats, and (3) using pricing information when evaluating possible marketing strategies. 6. Document pricing variables and farmer utilization of pricing changes as a result of project participation in a new Extension Fact Sheet. 7. Cooperating farmers and Project Leader will give presentations about the project, their involvement, and how they are using the results at two well attended farmer conferences- UMES Small Farmers conference and Future Harvest –CASA annual Meeting. 8. Distribute project results on-line, through newsletters, field day events and post calculator tools on the Ag Marketing website of University of Maryland Extension. 9. Poster presentation at Women in Ag conference and National Small Farms Conference. The work in this project will be very participatory between the project farmers and Extension. They will develop a greater sense of ownership of the project and commitment to its success, as they view their data collection and evaluation of their own pricing structures as critical to the project’s design and success.

    Project Time Table and Outreach – April 1, 2014 -March 31, 2015 April- Project team meets to review project goals and milestones. Training session on how to use the Cost/ Pricing Calculator and how to submit finished calculations sheet with computers available for each cooperating farmer. Introduce marketing Channel analysis tool with option to collect that data too for their own farm. Publicize project. May- Send farmer cooperators on-line survey to determine their current pricing philosophies and practices. Listing their current marketing channels. June- September- Monthly emails to cooperating farmers to answer questions, give updates, share support materials. Visit each cooperating farmer. Collect data from farmers about what worked and what didn’t when using the calculators. October- Collect all final input sheets. Prepare project presentation for Maryland Small Farms conference in November and prepare farmer to present. Send Matt LeRoux feedback from the group about the calculators and marketing analysis tool.

    Outreach- Starting November- Conference presentation. Publicize project findings. Post results on Extension Ag Marketing website. Send farmer cooperators on-line survey to determine any changes since participating in the project to their pricing philosophies and practices. Noting any changes to marketing channels as a result of their participation. January- Presentation on project at Future Harvest CASA Annual Meeting. Continue to disseminate information about the project to Ag press, websites, and newsletter. February- Poster presentation at Women in Ag Conference March- Poster presentation at National Small Farms Conference. Write final project report.

    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.