Page 3: Market Research

Sound market research is the first step toward capturing a measurable share of retail food sales in the region that includes Omaha, Des Moines and Kansas City. Farmer and rancher-owned retail brands will provide a much-needed business structure for direct marketers, organic growers and other specialty producers who want to stay in business and expand over the long term. 

As explained on page 4 of this website, cattle raised in pasture-based farming systems are central to large-scale plant-based food production for near-by cities. With soil fertility in mind, we are applying for market research grants to estimate demand for wholesale quantities of specialty beef. Future research will address consumer demand for organic beef along with fresh vegetables, pork and poultry.

Estimating Wholesale Demand

Conversations with feeders and packers in the region suggests some interest in organic and other types of specialty beef.  Our research will quantify demand by type. 

Experienced cow/calf producers from around Omaha, Des Moines and Kansas City will be invited to lead this research project. An independent team of researchers with direct experience in beef markets will work under the direction of the project leaders. A separate group of project advisors will be drawn from the beef industry, farm and ranch real estate, finance and marketing. 

This project will bring cow-calf farmers, ranchers and landowners together with feeders and packers to evaluate the feasibility of developing and managing forward contracts for various types of specialty beef.  These include non-GMO, hormone and antibiotic-free beef. Demand for certified organic beef will also be considered. 

The research team will organize meetings and provide all necessary materials and support. The project leaders will approve work plans, budgets and schedules and meet with the press and public to explain why owner-operated and sustainably managed farms and ranches are essential to long term regional food security.

Project Organization

The project will be organized at no cost to funding organizations. This work includes five tasks.

Task 1: Select Project Leaders

As noted above, the project leaders will be experienced cow-calf producers from the study area. To begin, we will discuss the project by telephone, Zoom and Skype. 

Task 2: Select Project Advisors

The project leaders will select attorneys and registered financial advisors with farm and ranch real estate experience along with marketers who have proven experience with specialty beef. Letters of interest from project leaders and advisors will be available to potential funding groups. 

Task 3: Funding

We will prepare a preliminary proposal(s) for research grants from foundations and government agencies with interests in rural economic development, fair wages and safe working conditions in the meat business and environmental issues in agriculture. The proposal will include a preliminary work plan based on this web page with a proposed budget and schedule that will be prepared once the project leaders and research team have been selected.

Task 4: Confirm Project Leaders and Research Team

Task 5: Finalize Funding. 

Project Work Plan

Task 1: Definitions

As indicated above, there is unconfirmed demand among feeders and packers in the study area for specialty and organic beef. However, production methods, the types of cattle produced, their sources and end market are not widely understood.  

The RF research team will begin work with by discussing beef production methods and labels. Briefly, these could include pasture-raised, antibiotic and hormone-free, non-GMO, organic and combinations of these methods.

Task 2: Public Meeting Content

The results from Task 1 will be combined with other educational materials for public meetings in Task 3.

Task 3: Conduct Public Meetings

With RF support, the project leaders will host press conferences and lead public meetings on the role of sustainable food systems in local and regional food security.

Task 4: Discuss Letters-of-Intent

The project leaders and the RF research team will hold individual and small group meetings designed to secure project participation from among:

            A. Cow-calf producers

            B. Backgrounders

            C. Feeders

            D. Packers

            E. Investors and lenders

This task has two objectives, to secure input from experienced individuals and groups as listed above and to make preliminary decisions on beef production methods and markets. The research team will focus on production methods with the best near-team profit potential, as judged by the project leaders and researchers. This is tentative decision that will be tested during discussions with area beef industry leaders. Please see Tasks 6 through 10.

Task 5: Finalize Research Participants

Task 6: Define Products for Study – Types and Amounts

This task begins with an estimate of the number of live animals to be raised according to the production method(s) selected by producers, feeders and packers. The researchers will ask each group for a tentative estimate of the number of cattle they would commit to  – if the return on investment is attractive. Cost and income estimates will be developed in the next task and discussed with all parties in Task 9.

Task 7: Cost and Income

Depending on the locations of the cow-calf producers, the RF Research team will discuss costs with experienced business owners, as follows:

            A. Transport to slaughter

            B. Slaughter (existing USDA facilities)

            C. Cold storage and aging (existing USDA facilities)

            D. Breaking and packaging (existing USDA facilities) for;

                        1. Farmers market

                        2. Direct sales

                        3. Wholesale

            E. Project marketing strategies, materials and costs;

                        1. Farmers markets

                        2. Direct sales

                        3. Wholesale

            F. Legal, certification and audit trail services

Task 8: Cash flow to Break-Even Analysis

Using data from above, researchers will estimate return on investment to cow-calf producers compared to industry averages.

Task 9: Final Cost and Income Estimates

Preliminary Task 8 findings and recommendations will be discussed with the project leaders, feeders and packers. 

Task 10: Approve Work Products from Tasks 4 through 8

After adjustments in Task 9, the researchers explain the changes during meetings with the project leaders prior to public meetings with cow-calf producers.

Task 11: Final Public Meetings 

            A. Discuss research results

            B. Vote on next steps

            C. Secure preliminary letters of intent from producers and buyers

Task 12: Final Report and Approvals

Phase II

Phase II will include production co-op incorporation and final contracts with wholesale beef buyers. We will also continue to meet with investors and their financial advisors on business plans.

Public education and investor information programs started in Phase I will continue in Phase II. Planning will begin for our regional marketing cooperative.

Phase III

Once we have established productive working relationships with wholesale buyers, our next goal is to develop a retail brand in cooperation with area grocery stores, restaurants and institutions. This effort will require new processing facilities, as discussed on Pages 2 and 4 of this website.

Please contact me for more information.

Jim Steffen

* ERS, OTA and Census data

Posted 04-06-2020, edited 02-27-2021