by Kara Lynn Dunn

David Reino may become a full-time farmer sooner than he expected. Two new brands of naturally-produced meats have opened marketing opportunities that are accelerating the growth of his grass-fed beef enterprise in Farmersville, NY, approximately 45 miles south of Buffalo.

Reino has raised beef cattle on pasture since 1993. He owns 500 acres and rents 250 acres. He works to steadily improve his herd through genetics, grazing management, high quality pasture, and winter forage.

In 2005, he switched to grass finishing. That year he sold 50 backgrounded calves at auction and seven steers by private freezer trade.  This year he anticipates selling more than five times the number of steers, a leap he credits to transitioning away from direct marketing in favor of selling through a specialty retailer.

 

A CLUSTER OF COOPERATING ENTERPRISES

Reino learned about some new marketing options in June 2006, from Joan Petzen, a farm business management specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties. She told him about a group of meat producers in New York who had leveraged grant funding from the New York Farm Viability Institute to create four cooperatively-linked enterprises:

  • Pure Farm Goodness Livestock Cooperative, whose farmer-members produce naturally-raised beef, goat and lamb under both the “Twin Rivers Northeast Artisan Meats” and “Halal Premium Meats” labels
  • The Friendly Butcher, a privately owned, USDA-inspected processing facility in Randolph,New York;
  • Halal Premium Foods, a management and holding company; and
  • Halal Premium Meats, a single-owner subsidiary for sourcing and marketing cleric-certified “Halal Tayyib,” or lawful and wholesome, meats to Muslim markets.

Through their New York Farm Viability Institute grant, the producers had gotten help from Brian Henehan and Judith Barry ofCornellUniversity’s Applied Economics and Management Department to figure out the plans and business structures for the four linked enterprises. The Institute is a farmer-led nonprofit organization that provides direction and grant funding to farm-based efforts to increase farm profits, reduce barriers to success and encourage innovation.  The Institute collaborates with the state department of Agriculture and Markets, agricultural colleges, Cooperative Extension, agribusiness, nonprofit groups and others.

 

TWO BRANDS FOR TWO MARKETS

Reino was among the first producers to sign a forward contract for his Angus beef to be processed and sold under the Twin Rivers brand. Twin Rivers-branded meats are distributed to health food stores, food co-ops, specialty retailers and “green” chefs. Twin Rivers products are also certified Halal Tayyib through Halal Premium Meats and can be marketed under the Halal Premium Meats label to targeted Islamic markets.

Halal Premium Meats CEO and Marketing Director John Umlauf says, “our production protocols attract ‘green mainstream’ and ‘true natural’ customers, including retailers and fine dining restaurants looking for naturally-raised, regionally-produced meats from small farms.”

“The only change I made to fit the required protocols was to work with my feed dealer to make sure my supplement concentrate does not contain antibiotics or animal by-products. Under the new contract, I will truck my cattle one hour to The Friendly Butcher inRandolph,New York,” Reino says.

 

TARGETED MARKETING = PREMIUM PRICES

Reino will collect a premium price when his cattle reach the processor. He recommends the retail location at the Friendly Butcher to his former freezer trade customers so they can still find the naturally-raised beef they desire. He says structuring his enterprise to the markets has been a key to success.

“This new contract represents the difference between selling seven steers last year and 50 in 2007. Capturing direct market price without doing the marketing myself will absolutely have a positive impact on my time and my bottom line,” he says.

Reino’s goal of raising 100 steers for slaughter each year is now within reach on a much shorter timetable.

“I would never have been able to maximize my return on investment for the land I have through traditional marketing channels. The Pure Farm Goodness Livestock Co-operative and the new branding have dramatically changed the nature of the opportunity for the viability of my farm business,” he says.

“My gross receipts will nearly triple this year, and when I reach 100 head in annual sales, I will no longer have to work full-time off the farm.” Reino says he is happy to be among those who meet the Pure Farm Goodness standards for consumers and for his farm business.

A second grant from the New York Farm Viability Institute is helping the Pure Farm Goodness Livestock Cooperative develop a program to recruit more producers to supply the anticipated demand for naturally-raised meats. Petzen says more than 150 producers of sheep, goat and beef meat have expressed interest in the cooperative.

For more information on the Pure Farm Goodness Livestock Cooperative contact Mr. Kelly Rhinehart, President, at or call (716) 474-2581.

Kara Lynn Dunn is a freelance writer and consultant for the New York Farm Viability Institute.  She writes from her farm in Mannsville,NY.

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