From the Ground Up: Pandemic Strengthens Demand for Custom Processing

Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 8:50 AM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Over the last few years there has been a rising demand among some consumers to buy locally produced food and that has given Farmers’ Markets and Farm Share programs a boost. The Covid-19 outbreak that slowed down the big meat processors in the U.S. has fueled even more demand for small local processors. Davey Griffin is a Texas A&M AgriLife Professor and Meat Specialist.

“We have a real interest by consumers right now in knowing where their food comes from. And so, with that, they like the opportunity to know more in terms of locally who produced that and who harvested that animal.”

Griffin explained that producers of grass-fed cattle had already begun to create niche markets locally for their products.

“They’re having them processed at an inspected facility, be that state or federal, and then those cuts are cut at that location and labeled with a label that bears the mark of inspection and that can be sold like you say at a Farmers’ Market, any of those kinds of things. They can take possession of it and resell it.”

Griffin says that there are also custom processing facilities that are exempt from inspection.

“Custom exempt can only do things for the owner of the animal and their immediate household and it can’t be resold. Those guys, the producers that are working under those kinds of plants are literally selling shares or halves or quarters of live animals. And so, they go in with a group that has already bought this animal from them and then it’s delivered to the processor. Those are the owners that pay for the processing as it goes through.”

And the pandemic has driven demand for these custom processors.

“The small plants are just overrun right now. We’re seeing those guys book animals for harvest for individuals even as far out as into 2021 right now.”

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