Long term opportunities abound for local meat production in Michigan

Opportunities abound for local meat entrepreneurs; however aligning producer to consumer in an economically feasible manner and meeting year round supply is a challenge.

Michigan-based initiatives have been launched with respect to local food sourcing. The Michigan Good Food Charter is committed in part to a mandate of:

  • Michigan Institutions will source 20% of their food products from Michigan growers, producers and processors;
  • Michigan farmers will profitably supply 20% of all Michigan institutional, retailer and consumer food purchases and be able to pay fair wages to their workers.

Another example of a local food mandate is the Farm-to-MSU Program. Some highlighted goals are:

  • provide an opportunity for Michigan farmers, processors, brokers, and food distributors to market their products and services to Michigan State University;
  • support Michigan businesses as they provide jobs and economic development;
  • develop dining services programming featuring Michigan agriculture.

These are just two Michigan programs of many emphasizing demand for local food. Supporting the local food trends, a survey of 63,000 shoppers surveyed by the Better Homes and Gardens American Shopper StudyNational Restaurant Association Survey indicated the top menu trend for 2011 will be locally sourced meats and seafood. They indicate that “hyper-sourcing” of local food will be among the hottest trends of 2011. indicated that nearly 6 in 10 Americans are consciously trying to buy foods that are local. Further, the

Although there is an apparent demand for local meat, many barriers to its implementation in food industry exist. First, developing a consistent supply of local meat for a distributor is a challenge. Michigan’s beef cowherd averages 15 cows per farm, thus supplying enough total product to meet year-round needs is difficult but not insurmountable. One solution is to begin to pool genetically similar cattle in the formation of cooperatives. Second, identifying a distributor to help carry a product into the retail area can also be a challenge. Throughout the year, there are many trade shows premiering local food and the local food business. The Michigan State University Product Center host a fall conference entitled, “Making it in Michigan” with an intent to develop more local food networks across Michigan. Third, cost of production when compared to mainstream product is high. In order be profitable, differentiating product as local and receiving a premium will be essential. Another important consideration when producing and marketing a local meat product is to ensure livestock are slaughtered and processed at USDA inspected facilities. Livestock that are slaughtered in custom exempt facilities are not eligible to enter the retail counter.

In all there is potential to develop opportunities for local meat production systems in Michigan. Honed animal husbandry skills and cooperative development combined with identifying a consumer for product will be essential. Entrepreneurs will be the key beneficiaries of this market. 

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