The Sustainable Meat Industry
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9 January 2017

Increasing the use of sustainable practices and scaling production are long-range goals for regional meat networks. Livestock producers and processors encounter challenges meeting the growing demand from consumers for higher-quality meat.

KK&P’s meat industry-related projects focus on leveraging existing assets and increasing opportunities for small farmers to grow into their regional demand and accomplish goals around sustainable practices.

Our Glynwood Report offered an assessment of the Hudson Valley meat industry. This comprehensive report detailed regional production of livestock and an analysis of the area’s processing capacity. We made recommendations that will support increased meat production in the region, trigger investment in existing operations, foster the use of sustainable practices, and lead to new operations that will address missing links in the value chain. The full report is available here.img_20140511_184114_539

KK&P recently completed a feasibility study for Marquette County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP), the outcome of which were recommendations around facilitating the growth of that region’s meat sector. This required developing a deep understanding of regional assets — whether on the supply side with farmers, processors, and logistical services, or on the demand side with customers and markets — and evaluating what additional resources would be needed to support additional meat producers in the UP. Our report for Marquette County is now complete and we’re anticipating its public release shortly.

Sam Garwin, COO Fleishers Craft Butchery - Photo credit Nancy Matsumoto
Sam Garwin, COO Fleishers Craft Butchery Photo by Nancy Matsumoto

And it’s almost pointless (and much less fun) to address the meat industry without getting some hands-on experience. As part of the December 2016 Women in Sustainable Agriculture conference, we participated in a Beef Breakdown workshop with Sam Garwin from Fleishers Craft Butchery. The butchery demo and supply chain conversation was designed for producers and buyers. We covered topics including grass feeding and finishing, assessing carcass quality, determining yield, working with cut sheets, and strategies for working effectively with farmers, processors, restaurants and retail operations. What an experience!

We believe that progress and development in regional meat are still in the early stages and that the next decade will bring significant positive changes throughout the entire chain. At the farmer end, there is increasing awareness of the value of soil health and carbon sequestration through proper pasture-based livestock management (go grass!) At the processing level, there is a growing niche of small, high-quality full-service processors who are facilitating the passage of regional meat from pasture to retailer, in formats from whole carcass to added-value products. The retail butchery movement continues to grow steadily as well and spread through the country wherever demand and some local supply can be found, not just in the expected progressive areas around New York City and San Francisco, but in towns such as Baltimore, Chattanooga, and Asheville. Notwithstanding that progress, plenty of obstacles still stand between sustainably raised, pasture-based, local meat and eager consumers, particularly in less affluent and rural communities. KK&P intends to continue working in this domain to facilitate the development of production, markets, and access.