Direct Marketing Beef
Direct Marketing, CSAs and Grassfed Beef
In addition to the more common means of marketing beef cattle, feeder calves, and as cull cows, direct marketing is another method of marketing cattle that can work in some locations, and for certain producers. One of the more recognizable products that is often directly marketed is grassfed beef. With direct marketing, producers raise calves, either their own, or purchased calves, to maturity, and then sell the meat from these “finished” calves directly to the consumer. This can be live animals, commonly called freezer beef, or as individual retail cuts. With freezer beef, the buyer is purchasing the animal before it is actually slaughtered, so they can use a custom exempt facility, which can process animals that will solely be used for personal use.
More commonly, cattle will be processed at a USDA inspected facility, and the meat by the retail cut, or by convenience packages, consisting of a variety of cuts.
With direct marketing, cattle producers retain control over the entire supply chain, and perform all the functions, rearing cattle to maturity, advertising, sales, monitoring cash-flow, and inventory management.
Harvesting, or slaughter of cattle is usually done at a custom processing facility, which may or may not be USDA inspected, depending on how the customer is purchasing their beef. If they’re purchasing whole animals, it’s typical to use custom exempt facility, where processing costs are much lower.
One of the challenges with direct marketing is to keep a steady supply of product available to consumers, so direct marketers often calve year-round to ensure a steady supply. While the price received per animal seems impressive, it’s easy to overlook the costs and risks associated with this method of sale and distribution.