We have learned that building a successful local beef network requires advance planning and commitment. Did you know that we commit to purchasing beef from our supplier network a full year in advance? That’s because it takes up to two years to raise a beef animal to a mature weight when you are grazing it on grass outdoors on pasture. (Click here for more information about our beef production standards).
Most cattle farmers in North Carolina are what are known as cow/calf producers. In other words, they raise calves to sell to stocker operations or feedlots outside the state. In this scenario, the cattle leave the farm when they are about a year old or weigh 500-700 lbs.
At Firsthand Foods, we’re asking our farmers to keep their calves an extra year, raise them to 1300 lbs or thereabouts and then intensively manage their pastures and nutrition program to produce high meat quality.
This involves risk. Animals can get sick or be hit by lightening. There could be a drought (like the ones we’re experiencing lately) that depletes pasture quality and requires purchasing hay. And once the beef reach a mature weight, there are very few market options other than Firsthand Foods. So our farmers need to know they can count on selling their animals to us.
So advance planning and commitment are crucial to building a reliable source of local beef. Similarly, without loyal restaurant and retail customers who purchase our beef week in and week out, we’d be hard pressed to deliver on our commitments. That’s why we view our customers as community partners who each play a key role in helping us build a more reliable and resilient supply chain.