Beef, sheep and goats, oh my

Beef, sheep and goats, oh my

If agriculturists are not able to gain control of the supply

chain the future of agriculture will not flourish. As it is, there

is an incestuous relationship between agriculture and big businesses

that thrives in the dark, and I am here today to shed

some light on the industry, market, and future structures that

can create by-product production and increase the control of

local supply between grower and consumer.

I will dive into the logistics of popular proteins such as

beef as well as less popular proteins such as goat and sheep.

I have solicited the help of local producers of each protein in

Carbon and Emery counties, and in other rural Utah areas. For

the purpose of this article I will keep their names anonymous.

First, let’s discuss the differences between multi-generation

farming, first-generation farmers, and multi-generation farming

without the inheritance of capital in the form of land, animals,

and implements. Inheritance always aids in the development

of an operation’s size and markets to scale.

When a child of a farmer inherits land, livestock, permits,

and equipment, the money they would have spent on the initial

investments can go to new markets, and much more. The business

will grow and more easily enter other industries.

Beef: The consumer’s inconvenience is the beef growers’

largest barriers for gaining more control of local markets. Few

people have the freezer space for a full beef, or the money to

spend up front for a steer on the hoof or hanging. They instead

pay for beef as they need it at higher prices for lower quality.

One option local growers have to gain more control of the

market is to create a farmer-owned co-op that buys from locals

and has an in-house butcher where the meat can be inspected,

cut and wrapped ready to be sold at market price. Unfortunately,

producers, be it beef, corn, or wool, are price takers and never

price makers. Consumers set the price for all except the largest

producers. Waiting to sell for a future price means spending

money storing or feeding for an additional year, or selling at

auctions. There are downsides of auctions in all industries. For

example, animals must be trailered in.

There are ways for producers to control the supply chain

in various ways. They include niche marketing, agritourism,

strategic by-product sales, and vertically integrated marketing.

Finding niche markets lets farmers become price makers for

specific products. This gives them a small window in every

category of production.

A large by-product market in the the beef industry is leather.

However, there are 111 leather tanning facilities in the United

States and more and more specialize in wild game hides instead

of cow hides. If beef growers could break in, tanned cowhides

could be sold as rugs, and tooling leather could be sold to private

individuals as well as businesses. This market is most likely to

be obtained from butchers, feedlots, and vertically integrated

business models.

One of the most common vertically integrated beef markets

is jerky that can be marketed as artisan, fresh, or homemade and

bring higher prices than brand-name jerky in convenience stores.

Sheep: Sheep is a lesser protein but its demand has risen

steadily with the influx of immigrants into the area. Sheep has

the same benefits as beef, plus the by-product sales of wool.

Now, most wool growers have been selling raw wool right off the

sheep. But one of the largest wool buyers in the country is the

U.S. Army which acquires nearly 25 percent of wool produced.

However, they only buy as needed, not in surplus, and wool

producers have been known to sit on sheared wool for years.

There is a brighter future for wool because it can be spun

locally and spun into a usable thread, which can be made into

blankets, crocheting yarn, bows, and more.

This provides a local good that is otherwise hard to find. The

by-products of sheep can increase profits above meat production

and in businesses where prices can be set.

Goats: Much like beef and sheep, goats would benefit from

farmer-owned cooperatives, but they encounter the hardship

of being a less-popular protein and victim of market slaughter.

Goat producers have been forced to take market prices or

make nearly unattainable contracts with feedlots that are not

easily met. Goats milk could benefit from niche marketing

and strategic advertisement. It’s most commonly used for

supplements in weaner calves, or a protein substitute in young

pigs. Goats milk could also be used for those individuals with

sensitivities to dairy in cooking ingredients, drinks, and butters.

An unusual use of goats is in the energy fields. No, they’re

not used for mining coal or turning wheels, but to eat down

vegetation along power line plots, and as fire management.

When the job is done, they are sent off for meat production.

The future of agriculture and the

producers’ livelihood is dependent

on gaining control of the local supply

chain. It will take work from local and

state agencies working towards the same

goal. It will require producers to work

with their competitors, develop skills

outside of the normal, and think outside

of traditional production.

Source: Einnews

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