Raising Market Beef
In a steer or heifer market beef operation, you purchase 500 to 600
pound feeder calves after weaning at approximately 7 to 10 months of age. They can then be fed out and marketed in
less than a year from the time of purchase. Thus, the investment on each calf is returned within a comparatively
short time. This type of operation may not require much land, but adequate facilities are essential so that animals
can be kept comfortable and under control.
Direct marketing is selling food and farm products directly to
consumers without using an intermediary. This may include direct sales to grocery stores, restaurants, door-to-door
and freezer sales and Internet marketing.
According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, general livestock
farms sold less than 1 percent of total livestock sales by means of direct marketing in 1992. More current
information will be available when the 2002 Farm Census is analyzed. More than $3 million in sales was
generated from these sales. Direct marketing of livestock products is not as common as other vegetables and melons,
for example, because livestock require further processing. The percentage of farms with direct sales is higher in
more urbanized counties.
However, direct marketing can provide prices for producers higher than typical
wholesale prices, yet below supermarket prices. Interest in food safety, the environment, people wishing to
purchase local products and alternative agriculture has also supported this growth. Consumers enjoy dealing
face-to-face with the producers of the products they are purchasing. This trend relates to traceability and
accountability. The ability to trace a product to the original source is a critical food safety issue and provides
consumers assurance that their food is safe and wholesome because they know the individual who produced it for
Increasing numbers of producers and producer groups are reaching new consumers using
the Internet. With widespread sales of home computers, an estimated 60 percent of the U.S. population has Internet
access. More consumers are shopping over the Internet. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, total e-commerce sales
during 2001 were estimated at $32.6 billion.
Beef that is sold over the Internet must be processed in federally inspected plants. If
the meat is processed in a state inspected facility, it is only legal to sell meat within that state.
Farmers’ markets continue to grow in the United States. According to the USDA, there
were more than 3,100 farmers’ markets in 2002, an increase of 79 percent from 1994. Farmers’ markets are beneficial
to farm operations that have less than $250,000 in annual receipts.
Direct marketed beef will be affected by the growing trend of more meals consumed
outside of the home. Expenditures on away-from-home food now account for about 47 percent of total U.S. food
expenditures. The National Restaurant Association projects away-from-home food expenditures will exceed at-home
food expenditures by 2010. Possible implications and opportunities could be further explored. Perhaps
producer groups will want to consider providing pre-cooked, easy to reheat meat products, or develop other products
that can meet the needs of consumers.