Earlier this month we hosted our annual beef producer network meeting at our warehouse headquarters. Rather than visit a cooperating farm, we chose to give the 25 beef producers in our network the chance to see our operations up close. It’s not every day that producers have the opportunity to pick up large primals of meat and see firsthand the sheer volume and diversity of products that come off a single beef carcass. Indeed, raising beef cattle on pasture is a two-year endeavor that takes place exclusively outdoors and can be, on the whole, relatively far removed from the process of selling and marketing meat. Be sure to check out the photo slideshow below!
So after touring the facility, we made our way back to the cooler and played a challenging game in which producers tested their knowledge of various beef cuts. It can be difficult to identify whole muscle cuts, especially when they are encased in vacuum seal bags; differentiating between a top round and bottom round or a New York Strip and a Ribeye was trickier than they expected. In the end, it was the few farmers who also direct market their own beef who had the easiest time of it. The meat cut game gave everyone an appreciation for our hard-working operations crew, who in addition to having meat expertise, have a physically demanding job. Indeed, last year they moved close to 200 tons of beef off pallets, into boxes and back onto pallets again!
After a pizza supper (thank you @Piepushers) shared outdoors (thank you #spring), we engaged in arguably the most important discussion of the evening. And that is our shared efforts to improve beef quality and consistency, something we all take quite seriously. On our end, we are committed to grading a ribeye off each weekly batch of animals, and providing farmers with specific feedback on carcass marbling. In addition, we incentivize this effort by paying a premium for beef that grades mid-choice or higher. This information becomes part of what each farmer uses to judge the performance of his or her genetic, pasture management and nutrition programs, all of which factor into the quality of the final product.
As the sun disappeared behind the warehouse, we made procurement plans for 2019 and finished up the last of the cookies (thank you @eastdurhampiecompany), gratified to come together as a community and reaffirm our common purpose – to build a delicious, transparent, and sustainable beef supply here in North Carolina.