Where's the Beef?

Kroger partners with Kentucky
Cattlemen to market local beef

New program was launched March 20
throughout the state

(April 2018)
Read previous Don Ward columns!

Don Ward

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 2018) – If you love beef, you’re going to love this: On March 20 – National Agriculture Day – 85 Kroger stores throughout Kentucky began selling a new all-Kentucky beef product.
Although still in the development stage at the time, the program was widely promoted at the annual Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Convention, held in January in Lexington, Ky., where free samples of the beef products were distributed.
Kentucky Cattlemen’s Ground Beef became available in one-pound bricks and two-pound packages of four patties each. The product is 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles joined Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association leaders in making the announcement.
“On a day when we celebrate the contributions that farmers make to our everyday lives, we are thrilled to introduce Kentucky Cattlemen’s Ground Beef,” Quarles said. “Kentucky Cattlemen’s Ground Beef will create new income and jobs all across the food chain – from the farmers to the grocery. It also gives consumers a wholesome local product that they can serve to their families with confidence.”

Most of the cattle raised in Kentucky are usually sold and shipped out of state to large feedlots and processors who then ship the meat back to the area for sale in stores. This program is designed to keep the entire cycle in the state.
The program is being marketed under the name Beef Solutions LLC, which is a single-owner Limited Liability Company owned by the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Inc. Beef Solutions was formed to provide a pathway for Kentucky’s cattle farmers to enter the market for locally produced and marketed ground beef, guiding the product from the Kentucky farm to the Kentucky consumer.
Kentucky has been raising cattle since 1775 and today is the largest beef producing state east of the Mississippi River, with more than 38,000 cattle farmers. Beef Solutions partners with Kentucky farmers who take pride in their decision to raise cattle that will stay in Kentucky, locally harvested, processed and enjoyed by families in the Commonwealth.
Cattle sold through this new program must be source verified, have access to fresh water at all times, are raised using animal well-being practices, live low-stress lives in safe environments and receive immediate and appropriate medical care when necessary.
“We are proud and excited to provide fresh, natural beef sourced from Kentucky Farm families,” said Beef Solutions Chairman and cattleman Jeff Pettit in a release.
Kroger spokesperson Erin Grant said, “Kroger takes immense pride in supporting our hard working Kentucky farm families. We are thrilled to see this project come to fruition and to offer our customers this completely local product.”
According to a locator map on the program’s website, the new ground beef products are available at several Louisville area Kroger stores, plus those stores in Carrollton, La Grange, Prospect, Shelbyville and Madison, Ind.
Kentucky Cattlemen’s Ground Beef is processed by The Chop Shop, a Kentucky Proud member in Wolfe County that is the only Global Food Safety Initiative-certified processor in the state. The beef is ground and packaged by Creation Gardens of Louisville and distributed from Kroger’s Louisville distribution center.
The ground beef product is the result of 18 years of ongoing discussions among the KCA, the Kentucky Beef Council, the Kentucky Beef Network, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy, Kroger, producers and processors. To gain approval, it required special certifications to meet the food safety standards of major retailers.
Dave Maples, executive vice president of the KCA, said the state’s beef producers had no trouble selling premium products like steaks, but the hamburger end of the market was tougher in which to compete. So the producers began researching the best ways to package and label the products. The final version is available as a one-pound square for $4.99 and as a two-pound set of four pre-made patties for $9.99. Both packages do away with the conventional Styrofoam tray. The price sets the Kentucky labeled beef squarely in the middle between store ground beef and more expensive premium products.
That’s intentional to give consumers the value of a locally sourced product at a fair price, producers said.
The hope is that demand will take off, and the state can expand production, Quarles said. Right now, the KCA subsidiary Beef Solutions is producing about 3,000 pounds of ground beef a month from slaughtered cattle purchased from Kentucky farmers.
As demand increases, the purchases are expected to give the farmers another market, Maples said.
Quarles said that his department is also working to sell Kentucky beef into China, which has been open to U.S. farmers for almost a year. He said that Kentucky is one of the few states that could meet Chinese demands for detailed information on sourcing.
Many farmers from Kentuckiana who attended the convention said they were impressed with the program and were eager to learn more about it and see it grow.
“Should demand for the product continue to grow, there could come a point where The Chop Shop would not be able to handle it all. So that could open up opportunities for other slaughter houses like ours to get involved,” said John Edwards, a Bedford, Ky., farmer, president of the Trimble County Cattlemen and co-owner of Trackside Butcher Shoppe in Campbellsburg, Ky. “And if that happens, you could see farmers in our area getting involved because they won’t have to transport their cattle all the way down to Wolfe County.”
Edwards said he did not know of any local farmers participating, primarily because the program is so new and because of the distance to deliver cattle to The Chop Shop. But the program has much potential for growth, he added.
“It’s cutting out a lot of middle men in the process because now you don’t have to transport cattle out West,” he said. “The entire process is being handled here in Kentucky. And if it continues to grow, that could mean premiums for farmers goes up.”
And that would be a win-win for both the cattle producers and consumers throughout the state – not to mention a tasty alternative for supporting local farmers.

To learn more about the program or find a Kroger store near you that is participating, visit www.KentuckyCattlemensBeef.com. Or visit www.BeefSolutionsllc.com.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: info@RoundAbout.bz.

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