Virginia Meat Study Explores Retail Opportunities for Small Meat Companies

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RICHMOND—The Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability (VA FAIRS) recently conducted a retail meat sales study to help farmers sell their processed meats in local markets.

The study looked at three retail formats, including farmers’ markets or roadside stands, on-farm shops and on-farm butchers as ways for small-scale meat processors to sell products and identify necessary permits and regulations. It also provided information on the logistics for operating in meat retail areas.

“All three models have the potential to be profitable,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “However, each model has its own unique opportunities and challenges, and all require access to a skilled workforce, a reliable and steady supply of meat or poultry, and a strong commitment to marketing.”

After more than two years of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, direct-to-consumer meat sales continue to grow. VA FAIRS said consumers continue to look beyond traditional grocery stores and want to look to local farmers to fill that void.

“The disruptions resulting from the pandemic have further increased consumer demand and interest in locally produced meats,” Banks said.

“The study added that since meat processing is capital-intensive, interested farmers in Virginia can partner with local government to apply for the Governor’s Agricultural and Forestry Industries Development Fund.”

The banks added that grants can leverage the ability to build new processing facilities, expand existing facilities or plan and establish retail facilities.

VA FAIRS referred to Hidden Pines Meat Processing LLC, which received a $40,000 grant from Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin in March 2022. The grant is expected to enable the company to improve its processing volume to more than 1 100 locally raised cattle, goats, pigs and lambs. every year.

“The pandemic has presented many challenges to the farming community in Virginia. This is especially true for livestock producers whose livelihoods depend on the ability to process and sell their animals locally,” said Matthew Lohr, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. “By making strategic investments like this to help build the meat processing capacity of the Commonwealth, we are creating important new market opportunities for our farmers, as well as local options for our consumers.”

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