By MATTHEW D. ERNST
SPRING HILL, Tenn. — A $90,000 USDA grant will enhance Tennessee’s Value-Added Beef Program in 2013 by funding consumer research, producer education and an economic feasibility analysis for producing and marketing locally-raised beef in the state.
The Federal State Marketing Improvement (FSMIP) grant, awarded by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, will fund applied research complementing the larger Value-Added Beef Program. This program has been led by University of Tennessee extension and the staff of the Center for Profitable Agriculture, a partnership between the UT Institute of Agriculture and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.
The FSMIP grant will fund 2013 research into supply and demand of locally-raised beef. On the demand side, the FSMIP grant will help fund a telephone survey of 1,000 Tennessee consumers. The survey will measure preferences and buying patterns for locally raised beef, while identifying characteristics of consumers more likely to purchase local beef.
The grant also funds research to determine consumer preferences for labeling and packaging of Tennessee-finished beef. Wendy Sneed, livestock marketing specialist at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), said the information is much needed as producers and processors navigate how to meet growing consumer demand for locally raised meat.
“We’ve had such a large growth in farm fresh meats in Tennessee,” she said. “This will be the first survey, to my knowledge, that provides this kind of information about Tennessee beef consumers.”
On the supply side, the grant will help researchers conduct focus group interviews with Tennessee cattle producers to determine their perceptions and needs when marketing local beef. The project will also develop budgets and cash flow projections that will pinpoint the profitability of finishing beef compared to other production options, including the feeder cattle production that characterizes Tennessee’s cattle industry.
“Tennessee is and will continue to be a state that fits into the more traditional model of sending most of our feeder calves to other parts of the United States to be finished,” said Charles Hord, executive vice president of the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Assoc.
“We do recognize that more consumers are interested in locally raised product, and we want to position ourselves to meet this growing demand. The Tennessee Value-Added Beef Program offers cattle producers in Tennessee another option in marketing their cattle, and has potential to improve the income for cattle producers in our state.”
Both the production and demand research funded by the FSMIP grant will be conducted throughout 2013. A conference reporting on this and other research into value-added beef production in Tennessee is planned for next year.
The grant was awarded to UT, in cooperation with the TDA, the UT Institute of Agriculture and extension. According to the USDA, the FSMIP “provides matching funds to state departments of agriculture, state agricultural experiment stations and other appropriate state agencies to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products, and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.”