August 24, 2000 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Kentucky producers are in need of some creative ways to replace cash flow lost from tobacco quota cuts. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension specialists are working with producers to find some answers. One such project is the Direct and Local Meat Marketing Program.

The Direct Meat Marketing Program was jointly formed by UK, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Kentucky State University, Partners for Family Farms, and Kentucky farmers. Their objective is to increase the profitability and sustainability of Kentucky livestock producers and to improve the viability of rural communities.

"Innovative livestock producers are developing markets for meat." Lee Meyer, UK agriculture economist, said. "If they are successful, this will be one of the tobacco alternatives."

Meyer said that while farmers have traditionally sold whole hogs and beef sides to their neighbors, this style of marketing does not fit current consumers' lifestyles. Fewer people have large capacity freezers and many are more interested in easy-preparation meals than from-scratch meals. Still, there is opportunity to develop both markets.

Presently, a farmer only gets about 50 percent of the retail value of a steer and 40 percent of a hog's retail value. If producers want to capture the other 50 and 60 percent, respectively, they will have to take care of the processing, freezing, delivery and promotion themselves. That cost typically is $800 for a steer and $300 for a hog. Marketing directly to consumers will keep more money in the producer's pocket.

"Some advantages of the Direct and Local Meat Marketing Program can be lower costs to consumers, higher total income for farmers, putting money back into local economies and improved quality and freshness," Meyer said.

If producers want to take advantage of direct marketing they need to evaluate their interest in marketing and dealing with people. They should think about how direct marketing will complicate their enterprise and decide if they can really produce the quality consumers want.

"If you still want to proceed, you may want to learn what other farmers are doing," Meyer added. "Also, finding a good processor, who will be one of your business partners, is important.

UK has set up a web site that focuses on the Direct and Local Meat Marketing Program at Browse through the site or contact your local Extension office for more information.

"Will you make money?" Meyer continued. The evidence is that, with good marketing and careful management, local/direct meat marketing is profitable, but it's also not for everyone."


Lee Meyer 859-257-7276