DSC_0008“Locally grown” is one of the hottest terms in the food business today. Yet it can be confusing to consumers on what local is.

Local to some might seem like more regional to others. And local meat may have a different definition than local fruit/vegetables.

Local beef to some is cattle raised/harvested in the Midwest or a “beef state” such as Texas, Kansas or Nebraska.Whereas local to others might just mean U.S. beef.

Likewise, local fruits and vegetables in the spring/summer is within the surrounding states that we live, but in the winter, local might be California or Florida or a location that is more available to grow vegetables. Yet when many think “local” in terms of fruits and veggies, they many only think of their farmers market.

How important is local to us? In all honesty, to most consumers what it really comes down to is price/quality. Most of us are worried about freshness, safety and overall nutrition/taste.

But local can be a challenge, especially for quality beef. A CattleNetwork article mentions that developing reliable supply and marketing chains can present a challenge, particularly for the smaller producers and processors typically involved in local-foods efforts. That’s especially true in the case of meat products according to a new report from USDA’s Economic Research Service. The report, titled “Local Meat and Poultry Processing: The Importance of Business Commitments for Long-Term Viability,” outlines some of the challenges and potential solutions for building viable local markets.

steak9For producers to market their meat locally of course, they need a local processor. But for a local processor to remain economically viable, they need steady, year-around business rather than dramatic seasonal swings in demand for slaughter and processing services.

The authors describe three types of local-meat supply chains, each with their own regulatory and logistic challenges.

Very local – farmers sell live animal directly to one or more household buyers, who buy by the whole, half, or quarter carcass. A mobile slaughterer may come to the farm, or the farmer may deliver the animal to a processing facility. For red meat, the household buyers place the cutting orders, pay the processor directly, and pick up their meat, typically frozen.
Local-independent – The farmer arranges and pays for processing and handles distribution and marketing through a variety of direct and local channels.
Regional-aggregated – Multiple farmers sell finished animals to a central brand entity that arranges for processing and distribution and handles marketing, largely to wholesale accounts.

The case studies included in the report generally fall in the local-independent or regional-aggregated categories. Read more here.

Does this change your definition of local?

There really seems to be a difference in the definition for meat vs. veggies/fruit, doesn’t it? Yet many consumers today combine the concept, especially when we’re talking about food safety and outright availability. It’s important to remember seasonal availability and the use of our technology today to grow the food we have.

Find out more about local and organic food from

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