It’s not exactly a breaking news bulletin to tout the fact that increasing numbers of consumers are opting to buy beef direct from ranchers and online marketers offering alternative to picking through the mass of pre-packaged cuts stacked in the traditional supermarket meat case.
What’s interesting, though, are the reasons why.
Although such buyers represent but a small fraction of the beef-consuming public—and a ridiculously small percentage of total sales revenue for fresh beef— I believe the mindset such buyers display is instructive as to future consumer trends, and one worth analyzing.
A recent story about the trend of sourcing beef purchases directly with producers appeared this week in the Casper, Wyo., Star-Tribune. Titled, “Wyomingites are buying beef from ranchers” (never knew what to call folks from The Cowboy State), the article quotes a couple of folks who aren’t exactly disinterested observers. One was Charlie Scott, a state legislator who also happens to be a rancher and who happens to sell as many as 50 cattle direct to consumers each year.
Gee, wonder if he thinks direct sales are a good idea?
The other main source was a Casper resident named Stacy Johnson, who told the newspaper that she hasn’t bought beef from a grocery store in six years. Why? Because her sister is one of the owners of the Simmons Ranch. Thus, she “prefers to buy her beef from her kin rather than local retailers.”
It makes sense that Scott and Johnson are big supporters of direct-to-consumer sales, but even a cursory news search shows that the trend is happening in plenty of places other than Wyoming. I’ll be honest: I buy the beef our family eats direct form a local farmer/rancher here in western Washington, one who raises Highland-cross cattle on several hundred acres of pasture. He’s no big-time producer, but the beef he sells is every bit as flavorful and marbled as the best Black Angus anywhere.
And I must admit that it feels good to be putting money directly into the pockets of a local grower, knowing that pretty much every penny I pay gets re-circulated locally for feed, supplies, veterinary services, etc., not to mention supporting a local mom ’n pop custom packing plant just up the road from where we live.
For most people, there’s precious little chance to leverage the economic conditions that one way or another impact all of us, no matter what our profession or business affiliations. Buying food locally, however, provides exactly such an opportunity, albeit on a microscopic scale.