Big frames, big grass-finished flavor

Baldwin Charolais beef doesn’t require fat to produce quality

by Mike Hillerbrand
Yanceyville, North Carolina
— Most of the buzz in grass-finished beef circles today is about the benefits of small frame sizes, English genetics and marbling ability. This, it is said, is the sort of beef genetics required to produce profits straight from pasture.

Meanwhile, Baldwin Family Farms is producing lean, large (frame score 7-8) Charolais cattle on grass and selling critically acclaimed beef to loyal retail and wholesale customers. Continue reading “Big frames, big grass-finished flavor”

Grass-fed beef by the numbers

Even EPDs have their place in genetic selection

By Jim Munsch Coon Valley, Wisconsin—I am often asked about the best breed for grass-based beef production. Most grass-fed experts say that a high proportion of English genetics is important. I lean that way myself — we have Angus.

But I always tell people that the specific breed is not the most important factor in grass-fed, as within each breed there are animals that can do well in your grass system, and those that won’t. When asked about breeds, I instead treat the questioner to a long explanation involving “type” and the methods for managing genetics. Continue reading “Grass-fed beef by the numbers”

Following the money in a grass-fed business

Analysis shows some surprising profit results from cow-calf and finishing after two winters

By Tom Wrchota, Omro, Wisconsin — Grass-fed beef is hot. More and more people are questioning the safety and quality of conventional beef and are willing to pay premium prices for grass-fed even during this recession. While we’ve had to work a little harder to sell steaks, we can’t keep up with demand for our premium hamburger and some of the other cuts. The hype is amazing, and the future seems bright.

But are we making any money at this? When Susan and I started Cattleana Ranch 17 years ago, we set out to achieve a profitable agricultural business while maintaining a simpler life working on a small livestock farm. Continue reading “Following the money in a grass-fed business”

Selling grass-fed meat in tough economic times

Tom Wrchota, Omro, Wisconsin — The increase in unemployed, underemployed, and fearful Americans has certainly affected overall spending on food. Here at Cattleana Ranch, meat sales are off slightly from our all-time record high of 2008. A decline in the dollar volume of our chicken and meat CSA sales offset slight increases in our beef, pork and lamb business. Overall, we feel like we’ve held our own through this economic storm.

The challenge these days for all grass-fed marketers is to hold on to the current customer base, keeping revenues at least even without diminishing profit margins. A direct marketer’s developed customer base is the stored “gold” of the business, and the customer’s continued loyalty during rough economic times is essential for success. It is critical to understand why these customers purchase from you, and how the economy is potentially changing their buying habits. Continue reading “Selling grass-fed meat in tough economic times”

Methods for calculating marketing costs

By Jim Munsch, Coon Valley, Wisconsin — Take a stroll through the meat market, do some math, and your first inclination is to say that direct marketing of beef will pay a producer.

We farmers have been basically saying that for years. Ever since I can remember, I’ve heard uncles, cousins and neighbors complain about store prices for food, and the fact that the “middleman” is making all the money. Behind this emotional observation is an acknowledgement of a real economic truth: Middlemen tend to be a small number of for-profit organizations with considerable economic power compared to individual producers of much smaller scale and with feeble economic power. In some cases their performance can be inconsistent, resulting in equally inconsistent demand and prices for your products. Continue reading “Methods for calculating marketing costs”

To really market, you need the right processor

By Tom and Susan Wrchota, Omro, Wisconsin — If you want to sell a few head of grain-fed beef in sides and quarters, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a processor who can do the job for you. But if you want to target a high-end niche market for grass-finished beef in an effort to produce the margins required to make a living from a small-scale enterprise, you need a processor who is up to the task.

In the nearly 15 years that we’ve been marketing grass-finished meat, our business has evolved to meet both customers’ needs, and ours. Staying small and simple wasn’t going to cut it if we wanted to make a full-time living selling grass-finished beef and other farm products, so we had to grow and become more complex. Continue reading “To really market, you need the right processor”