16 CALF News • August | September 2020 • The State of Our Industry COVER STORY Going Local Bandwagon Beef I n the heat of the moment it is easy to get caught up in what we think we should do vs. what we can do. The need to react can make one feel like they are missing an opportunity when really it could be dodging a bullet. Pastures often look greener on the other side, but we may not know the true reali- ties until they are experienced, and our sheer speculation can lead us to learn the hard way. The ongoing pandemic has positioned food supplies to be a focal point for Americans. Cattlemen have been caught with a supply of cattle, but minimal places to get paid for the conversion of muscle to meat and are experienc- ing a loss in value. This challenge has left many wondering if they should jump onto the “selling local” bandwagon and, rightfully, add more value to their operation. Before diving in, several reali- ties need to be faced. Are you willing to expedite the activity and oversight on your operation, let alone have the capacity and capital for an additional business? From my experiences, I realized that our home operation needed to make adjustments to maximize efforts many years ago. For us, adding a small, federally inspected plant worked in our situation and fulfilled our pursuit to become vertically integrated. For us, having an operation wasn’t all about size, but about efficiency and the ability to control value and mitigate risk. Of course, this model is different from the economies-of-scale approach, but still a sensible economic model that allowed us to combine cattle procurement, plant operations and beef sales. It’s important to understand that it wasn’t easy to combine all three, and it certainly didn’t happen overnight and wasn’t something motivated by a pandemic. It wasn’t that we wanted to break ground and take on all the responsibility, we just didn’t have a local plant that was steady enough to remain open. You see, local meat plants are often only skilled at meat sales and operations but likely do not have the capital for operation improvements or livestock procurement. By becoming vertically integrated, it permitted the efficiency to “play the market” across our own cattle procurement and direct customer sales. By Megan Webb Contributing Editor The local food movement is not new The local food movement traces back to the 1933 Agriculture Adjustment Act when there was a spawn of subsi- dies and price supports as well as many political movements that have culti- vated the growth from the early 1970s to today. When selling locally, there are quite a few strategies that include direct-to- consumer marketing, including sales at farmers’ markets, farm stands, on-farm sales, pick-your-own operations and community-supported agriculture (CSAs) programs. According to the 2017 Census Agriculture data, only 3 percent of sales were comprised of direct-to-consumer farm sales. There are directories to help identify farmers markets, local-food-directories/farmersmarkets , on-farm markets, https://www.ams.usda . gov/local-food-directories/onfarm and CSA programs https://www.ams.usda . gov/local-food-directories/csas . When marketing beef as “locally raised,” there are a few angles to achieve the basic meaning. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), local is defined as a measurable distance between food production and consump- tion that is 400 miles or fewer. For cattlemen, this means that cattle in a feedlot within 400 miles of any packing plant can be sold as “locally raised.” For many feeders or persons retain- ing ownership, this might be easily obtainable, if desired. From a marketing perspective, meat from animals raised locally or “locally raised” does not have