Cattle producers capture value from pasture to plate 

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has been in the beef business since 1521, when Spanish Conquistadors first brought cattle to America. Only recently did the tribe get involved in selling its beef directly to consumers. 

The tribe is leveraging the trend across the country of consumers who want to know more about their food and consume more local products. Beef producers such as the Seminoles have caught on and are seeing success with branded-beef programs.

Getting into the branded-beef business might seem difficult at first, but in the end it primarily requires establishing relationships with a processor and a distributor.

Name-brand partners

Seminole Pride Beef started in June 2013 as a program to help market some of the calves that are born from the nearly 14,000 cows tribal members own across Florida. The process of putting together the program took place over the past 12 years.

“We launched it, and it went over like hot cakes,” says Alex Johns, natural resource director for the Seminole Tribe. The tribe couldn’t meet demand with just its own cattle, so the program opened up to local ranchers whose cattle meet the specifications of Seminole Pride.

“We want this to be a Florida program,” Johns says. Calves originating from the Seminole Tribe’s herd add nearly $200 in value on a per-head basis when going through the branded program. Purchased calves from other Florida ranches earn $50 per head more compared to traditional market channels. 

“The biggest benefit of owning cattle all the way through to the box for us is that it spreads our risk over the different segments of the industry. It gives us more marketing options,” Johns adds.

Seminole Pride is in more than 200 restaurants and small retail outlets in the Sunshine State.

Ranchers and consumers aren’t the only stakeholders seeing benefits. Florida businesses have been vital in getting Seminole Pride from pasture to plate. 

For example, a partnership with Quincey Cattle Co. in Chiefland, Fla., means cattle are fed in-state. This past year, 6,000 calves went through the feedlot for Seminole Pride. For 2016, program managers are aiming for 10,000.

A packing plant in central Florida has agreed to handle all of the processing of the feeder cattle. Family-owned distributor Cheney Brothers ensures the finished product makes its way to restaurants.

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